In “The Last American Indian on Earth,” Gregg Deal has a lot to say — even when he’s not actually speaking.
Maybe he is existing silently in a public space, walking through a shopping mall or standing on a city sidewalk. Maybe he’s ripping through the scene on one of his kids’ Razor scooters. Or he’s standing to the side, holding a sign with a few choice words.
It turns out that a man wearing a fake Indian headdress made in China raises some eyebrows, provokes. His mere existence disturbs spaces.
Gregg, 44, is a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe with origins in what is now known as Nevada. Because his painting, performance art and filmmaking communicate through that personal lens on life, his art teems with the oft-dismissed Native perspective.
Gregg’s 2013 performance piece, “The Last American Indian on Earth,” launched him to some measure of prominence as an artist. Media started calling for him.
You might have seen or heard him in national outlets — e.g. Washington Post Magazine, The Daily Show, National Geographic, Huffington Post. You might have watched his TEDxBoulder presentation from last summer.
Or, if you’re plugged into news of the lengthy debate over the use of Native Americans as sports team mascots, you might have noticed Gregg at the forefront of it in Washington, D.C. He lived and worked in the area for nearly 20 years.
In his latest work, Gregg is getting a new series of paintings ready for a show this November at The Fridge gallery in D.C. “Outsiders” matches illustrations of indigenous people fighting back against white men with existing punk-rock lyrics. “Punk rock totally makes sense to Native people,” he says, “in terms of what they’re talking about.”
Gregg sat down in his home studio with Humanitou, surrounded by paintings and other works of his own, and that of friends.
He pulls out and unrolls a fresh print of work made and sent by his friend Shepard Fairey. He points out one of his new Outsiders paintings a rock star had just messaged him to buy, based on Gregg’s recent post of the work on Instagram.
All that is to say: Gregg has a strong voice and a focused presence people are drawn to. He has an immense love and respect for his roots, and an extraordinary depth of knowledge about our shared history as a nation.
And despite who he has come to know, and where his art and voice take him, humility and family — wife, Megan, and their five children — keep him grounded.
Meet Gregg Deal, as we talk about heritage and the prospect of white guilt, and bust stereotypes while charging right at them.
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