“Jaque is passionate and can express his aims with his mural far better than I could,” Shepard Fairey says of one of Jaque Fragua’s monumental pieces. Growing up in Jemez Pueblo, 30-year-old Fragua, the artist responsible for this week’s cover, was inspired by the original graffiti, etchings and carvings in sacred sites. This “wild art,” as he calls it, would curate his vision and later inform his career as an emerging street and multimedia originator.
Talk a little bit about your process.
For art in general? I don't know that I have a process. I kind of have a messy room, I guess, in terms of a process. I've got a bank vault full of ideas that I come up with, and nowadays because of my iPhone, I write everything down on my notepad. Anything that comes through my mind, I just write it down, and eventually, I'll have the opportunity to execute something that's relatable to a project or to an installation or event, and I'll go though my notes, and usually I'll have something very specific or detailed to pull from. Also, I have things that I constantly keep in motion in the studio—it could be paintings that I'm working on or experimenting with print processes, sewing stuff together, whatever it is.
What is the reality of being a modern Native American artist?
The reality is that it is twice as oppressive as being just a Native person. I feel like there’s so much pressure on young Native people to rise to a certain occasion or level of being or just adulthood…I don’t know what it is, but there’s all this pressure to be something that I don’t feel like we’re necessarily meant to be. It might be capturing the American Dream, or go to college and get your master’s in oil engineering, and there’s these things that our parents or the generation before have been trained or conditioned to do for so many years. Now, I feel like because we’re in a current state of society [where] people are having difficulty deciding what exactly they want to do, with that comes more pressure.
Since there are more options, I think that Native people are trying to pressure younger folks into taking a path that's already been carved or a route that's been tried-and-true and makes money. I think that a lot of young artists in art school want to create art that TC Cannon made or Fritz Scholder made, but it's already been done. It's had its time, and now we have so much more access to technology and information that you really could do whatever you want. I think the challenge for young Native artists is having the courage or confidence to do what you really want to do.
Have you turned down commissions or requests that you feel don't represent you?
All the time. I get solicited for a lot of different things, some a little bit more stereotypical or projected, and some events or experiences or group shows that are a little too, I don’t know, maybe they have other artists that I really don’t identify with or there’s a theme that’s racist. I don’t want to be involved with something like that. Maybe if it’s something that’s awful, I’ll try to be a part of it just so I can exploit it in my own way and flip it, but otherwise, I’d say it’s about half-and-half.
Ask him to sign your copy of SFR: Fragua is one of the dynamic artists featured in NDGNS X at the Convention Center (201 W Marcy St., 955-6200) this weekend, concurrent with Indian Market.