On Exhibit: Apache History Meets Street Art

February 22, 2017

Douglas Miles is a Native American artist whose paintings and other works reference Apache motifs. In the 1990s, after watching his son skateboarding, he decided to make a board for him.

“If I lived 100 years ago, I would have made my son a bow and arrow,” he has said. “Now I live in the 21st century, so I made him a skateboard…It’s the same thing—a father making something for his son.” Encouraged by the comments his son’s skateboard received, Miles founded Apache Skateboards in 2002. It is one of the first Native-owned skateboard companies.

Some of the artist’s now-iconic skateboards are included in Apache Chronicles: The Art of Douglas Miles, an exhibition of 23 of his works on photographic paper, wood and those signature skateboard decks. The exhibit is on view until May 30 at the gallery at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, located in Hamilton Hall.

Miles’ imagery blends science fiction, comic books, skateboarding culture and the Apache warrior tradition. He uses nontraditional materials to tell Native American stories and offer perspectives that are often absent from pop culture. In his own words, Miles looks beyond recorded history and into a reflection of an “unheard and unseen reality.”

Born in 1963, Miles grew up in Phoenix and later returned to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in southeastern Arizona. His work encourages reflection on how art can foster community-building and promote pride and well-being, especially among young people.

He features images of the fabled chief Geronimo and other Apaches wielding weapons, emphasizing the centrality of conflict in Native American modern history.

“This exhibition confirms the momentum evident in Native America and its broader impact,” said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, chief curator of the gallery and professor of English and comparative literature. “While not generally covered by the media, Native American artists, intellectuals and activists like Douglas Miles are at the forefront of transforming how we think about American history, art and global issues.”