Distinguished artist-in-residence's work centers Indigenous voices as the builders of their own narrative
For San Carlos Apache-Akimel O'odham artist Douglas Miles, the influence of his home community on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation on his art is “constant and never-ending.”
“The history of the Apache people prior to the founding of the San Carlos Apache Reservation and how they ended up there is important to understand how race, bias and prejudice shared the state of Arizona,” said Miles, founder of Apache Skateboards and the distinguished artist-in-residence at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies (SHPRS) at Arizona State University.
San Carlos was once the home of Geronimo, a prominent leader and medicine man from the Bedonkohe band of the Apache people, and was nicknamed “Hell’s Forty Acres” during the 19th century because of the poor health and environmental conditions. It is now known as the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation.
Within the reservation, Miles finds support from his family and community; they also offer him feedback and physical support when he’s working on a new project or series.
His art can be seen on buildings, old coffee tables, discarded truck hoods and more around San Carlos. Many depict Apache people against bold and colorful graffiti-inspired backgrounds.
“I think the street art influence was always in my work,” said Miles. “Starting from my formative years growing up in and around south Phoenix, my work was always influenced by Chicano and lowrider and graffiti art.”
Miles began drawing at a young age but was always exploring art mediums and finding new ventures to explore.
“I’m constantly using photography, film, graphics, social media, digital images, skateboarding, graffiti, street art, pueblo art, murals and found objects as my medium to speak to various topics,” said Miles.
One particular focus his work takes is to “center Apache and Native American voices as the builders and owners of their own narrative devoid of academia and non-Native scholars.”
“Presenting my work outside of my home community was always nerve-wracking and scary in the beginning of my career,” said Miles. “I never knew who would like it, understand it or not. I'm also proud of being able to show my work outside of San Carlos as well. I know it's an honor not often afforded many San Carlos Apaches.”