Super Indian gallery

10 Quotes from Artist Fritz Scholder

For Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967–1980, we compiled many quotes by the artist. Below is a selection of them that provide insight into his inspirations and creative process. We hope you also check out the exhibition on view through January 17, 2016. Included with general admission, free for members.

On color

1. "I consider myself a colorist. One color by itself isn't that interesting — it's the second color and a third color, and a dialogue starts and pretty soon you're swept up in it. You really don't know what's going to happen next.“

On process

2. “And so I literally almost go into a trance. The music is going loud. The paint is juicy, the brushes are flexible, the canvas moves when you touch it. And the color is luscious, the paint is buttery. It's a sensual thing—especially a big canvas that's a little larger than you in all ways—and you just throw yourself into it.”

3. “Because in teaching I realized—and saw—that most students it was the first strokes that were the hardest. In fact, they almost went catatonic in trying to just put that first piece of paint onto the canvas. And so the thing to do is just attack it.”

4. “For me, a painting should be spontaneous. It should have the elements of the material you’re working with, which is paint. Paint drips, it splashes.”

5. “…it's the concept simply of being your own boss, of deciding what problem you are interested in trying to solve, and then going about solving it in, hopefully, a way that is different than how anyone else would solved it. And this is, of course, the activity in the studio. And no one is there behind you whispering to you on what you should do next, what color to use, what brush.”

6. “It's a matter almost of a catharsis. It's really an exorcism on my part of getting out my frustrations…I am a completely undisciplined disciplined person...I go into the studio maybe an average of three times a week. I never want it to be work.”

On Indian subject matter

7. “When I first came to Santa Fe, I vowed to myself that I would not paint Indians. Then I saw the numerous over romanticized paintings of the ‘noble savage’ looking in the sunset and decided that someone should paint the Indian from a different context.”

8. “Sometimes older Indians will say to me, ‘Oh why do you paint the Indian so ugly'. But beauty isn’t cute or pretty. Ugly can be beautiful.”

9. “And this sounds terribly trivial, and it probably is but I'm probably the first person in all of art history to do a painting of an Indian with a cat. Now there have been many paintings of Indians with dogs. But no one, no non-Indian realized that Indians love cats. And that caused a stir, believe it or not. I was the first one to do an Indian wrapped in the American flag. That caused a stir. I was the first one to do Indians holding an umbrella…And I think that art is the vehicle for putting forth and fighting clichés, which we all fall into.”

10. “I have done series on women, and cats and dogs and butterflies, and down the line, and, simply, it's whatever is of current interest to me is what I paint. I've never had a problem of being blocked with any kind of subject matter, simply because I'm constantly just observing and doing and traveling, and I go to concerts, I love going to films, and it all, I think, is part of then coming and putting down something of yours.”

Heather Nielsen is associate director of learning and engagement and interpretive specialist for the native arts department at the Denver Art Museum.