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Artist Spotlight: Fritz Scholder


"I succumbed to a subject that I vowed I would never paint: the American Indian."

Fritz Scholder recalled the origins of his Indian Series in a 1982 PBS feature, "The subject was loaded, but here I was in Santa Fe. It was hard not to be seduced by the Indian."

Scholder, though one quarter Native American, never considered himself “an Indian.” He spent his childhood traveling with his father who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and subsequently used his intimate knowledge of modern Native America to debunk cultural clichés.  

In his signature contemporary style, Fritz Scholder took on romantic stereotypes to tackle tough issues like poverty, alcoholism and diabetes amongst Tribal communities. Incorporating a pop aesthetic and a wry sense of humor, Scholder’s figures embody the enigma of a culture caught up in legend and bound by mortality.  

Scholder captures the irony perfectly in one of his most famous works, Super Indian No 2, an image of a ceremonial dancer enjoying a pink ice cream cone. 

“He picked up [on] that Indian-as-mythical-being and Indian-as-ice-cream-cone-eater,” Scholder’s widow Ramona told NPR at his 2016 Smithsonian retrospective.

Scholder studied under Bay Area legend Wayne Theibaud at Sacramento City College in the 1950’s, and later went on to teach at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

He is best known for his 1960s-70s “Indian” works - brightly colored, politically charged, and often featuring American flags. He was a member of the Luiseno tribe and passed away in 2005.

 Shop available works by Fritz Scholder 


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