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Dine artist produces post modern art 
Singer trailblazes with innovative style

PHOENIX AZ

Rick Abasta 5/20/2005  Native Times
 

Ryan Singer isn't your typical Navajo artist.

That is to say, Singer's art is not what you would expect. His graphic detailed pen art assaults the senses with subliminal messages and recurring themes like coffee, music and boots. 

The young Navajo artist was exposed to art early on in life and he thanks his uncle for that introduction.

"My earliest memories are going to my uncle Ed Singer's studio in Gray Mountain. There was something that made me want to become an artist after seeing his studio and his artwork," Singer said.

True to form, he recalled his first piece as a crayon drawing of Gene Simmons spitting up blood, or breathing fire, which was created during recess in preschool.

The freedom of expression inherent in art was definitely an element Singer gravitated toward and something he still relishes today.

"My art is my guts and brains splattered all over paper or canvas," he said.

Singer said the purpose of art is to express and communicate and he makes sure to retain a native connection in his pieces, because it is his responsibility.

"Growing up in a rapidly changing world is unique," Singer said. "To show this in my own way is my responsibility.

"The native images represent who I am and keeps everyone else in check," he added.

Keeping everyone else in check means the juxtaposition of popular culture and native images shouldering the weight of hundreds of years of oppression. 

Like his piece "Land-O-Fakes," which spoofs the concept from Land-O-Lakes. The punchline comes with the motto "Sweet Land Stolen," with an Indian maiden prostrate with a dollar bill in hand and a sanguine smile.

Singer has showed at the Heard Museum in Phoenix and at Arizona State University. A recent trip to Los Angeles has put helped him establish the necessary logistics to show there later this summer.

The Singer process to creating art is a no-frills approach, where the central idea is the most important element.

"My process starts off with an idea. The idea is the most crucial thing to come up with. Then I sketch the idea onto a canvas and then I start from dark to light," Singer said.

With a catalog of 40-50 paintings, Singer said he has sold about 80 percent of his work, while the remaining pieces "hold up the walls in my studio."

"I like working during the day more, because I can see what's going on. But during the night, there's an energy that's not there during the day. It's the yin-yang effect," Singer said.

The huge spectrum of art he's created through the years have given Singer the prolific reputation of producing comic book-esque graphics, while traditional native images and surrealism are never far from view.

His contemporary pieces delve deep into the heart of humanity and temporarily pacify his restless nature, he said. His decision to sometimes utilize stereotypical images in his work are primarily to present an example and make a contemporary statement, he added.

"Pop art manifested in my work, like the Wagon Burner, Land-O-Fakes and the most recent Warholian piece altering the Campbell's Soup can to read Navajo Mutton Stew," Singer said.

Music influences his work more than anything and Singer said it gives him energy and attitude. He's not ashamed to admit his favorite style of music.

"Punk rock has probably had a subliminal effect on my work. At the age of 14, I was into metal, until I heard Black Flag's cover of "Louie Louie" and it floored me," he said.

Singer uses acrylics or oils with canvas for his paintings. For drawings, his tools are paper and a black Pilot Precise pen. Both mediums begin with the sketch, which is to ensure the proportions are all correct, he said.

Although he lives in Phoenix, Singer said he's not a privy to the Phoenix art scene.

"Ah, the Phoenix art scene. I donít know if that's an oxymoron. It could be a lot better," Singer said. "All I see is a party and fashion show every First Friday. It looks like every kid just stepped out of an MTV video."

Despite his appreciation for the local scene, Singer said there are Navajo artists he respects immensely.

"As far as Dine artists, I like Bahe Whitethorne, Shonto Begay and Steven Yazzie," he said.
 
 

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