November 17, 2008

Douglas Miles interview

Lightning Strikes Twice, The Arctic and Apaches in the BRONX!Sonny Grant: Although your work has been presented in various forms, you mostly use skateboards as a canvas, Why and What message are you trying to convey?

Douglas Miles: Using skateboards as a canvas is a way I challenge myself as an artist and designer. Its also fun to design something that has form and function, not something that just hangs on a wall or sits on a shelf. I don’t think in terms of having a “message”. Just trying to make something interesting that people can relate/respond to. If there are messages I guess they’re multilayered. I think the medium is the message. People ascribe different meanings to my work. There is a long list of short words people use when discussing my work: “ Pop, Modern, Street, Hip-Hop, etc…” There is also a short list of long words people use to describe my work: “ contemporary, appropriation, confusing, etc.” Go ahead and add your own new long or short words here.

SG: For those of us who aren’t familiar with your company would you briefly tell us about it and how it came into being?

DM: Apache Skateboards came into being purely out of necessity. “ Necessity is the mother of invention.” With no Native Skateboard companies at the time we started, we pioneered a little known thing into a small movement of sorts. Now Apache Skateboards (AS) has become a “brand.” We want to make it clear that we are proud of who we are and what we’ve done, Yet AS is not just me but a team of dedicated skaters, filmers, photographers, and artists who serve as our “ Broad of Directors.” AS is for everyone. We created a product that anyone should be proud to support.

SG: Your work synthesizes the images of “Boricua” and contemporary and traditional Apaches, What is the connection between these two cultures?

DM: The skateboards and art designed for the Fort Apache Connection art show at Hostos College (curated by Nadema Agard) were done as a tribute to two strong yet often marginalized cultures in America. Apache people from the southwest, Puerto Rican people from an area in the South Bronx formerly known as: Fort Apache. The work in the show is not really a synthesis but a tribute to two very strong and vibrant cultures and meant to discuss sociopolitical parallels in how each culture had been (mis) treated, for better or worse.

SG: Do you feel that you are commodifying Apache culture by presenting it within a pop context?

DM: No I do not feel that at all. Apache culture is too vast, complex, living, vibrant, expressive unknown, mysterious and specific to commodify. If I am commodifying anything it is my own artwork for my own fun and challenging purposes. I think it is necessary that we (Natives) create our own companies, products, and projects so we don’t have to be blindly sold whatever is out there. You can’t help but notice we live in a country/culture of consumers. I like Pop art but I do not consider myself a “Pop Artist” nor do I consider what I or my peers do as “Pop Art.” Museums that take cultural and intellectual property under the guise of preservation, then charge an entry fee to view one’s own culture? Authors and historians who write about Native cultures as “so-called experts” and receive payment for these books and articles? Non-Native companies who use Native-themes and images to sell products such as , cigarettes, butter, orthopedic shoes, clothes toys, movies, films, documentaries etc? Of all these various groups it is rare that the Indian community gets to see revenue from these various products or projects.

SG: Who or What influenced your work?

DM: First and foremost?

Allan Houser

Allan Houser

And Allan Houser

Did I say Allan Houser?

Of course you can see all types of influence. But currently?
Yatika Fields, Rose Simpson, Micah Wesley, Brian Brannon, Cey Adams, Batman, Bob Haouzous aka Mecha-Godzilla, subway sweat, ( sing sweet chariot down deadened streets.) Cannupa, HUMBLE, The Apache Wars, Velvet Underground, The Sopranos, Reubrn Ringlero, Lil’ Doug, Irwin Lewis, Exvoto Design, Eyejammie, Akira, Taxi Driver, South Bronx Hip-Hop era, Rahzell, Joe Conzo, Nadema Agard, Bruce Lee, Scorcese, Apachelypse Now, Ernie Panicolli, The Land of Plenty Skateboards, Cowtown, Charlie Parker, The RZA, Martha, Gracie, Bekah, Cece, India, T.C. Alley spray painted walls, & that cholo kid who is doing ill work on a little scrap of paper in the back of the classroom.

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