Connecting Past and Future Through Indigenous Artistic Innovation With Al Hubbard

“I think of my paintings as kind of a poem.” Al Hubbard

Uncover the unexpected truth about indigenous contemporary art! Discover how one artist’s work is revolutionizing storytelling through innovative, progressive art. Learn the surprising impact of indigenous knowledge in modern creativity. Stay tuned as we unravel the story behind art that’s more than just a painting—it’s a powerful poem. Al Hubbard, a contemporary indigenous artist of Navajo and Northern Arapaho descent, has established a unique artistic identity rooted in his rich cultural heritage. His subsequent move to the Wind River Reservation further deepened his appreciation and respect for tribal cultures, significantly shaping his personal and artistic trajectory. His innovative approach reflects his connection to tradition and a commitment to preserving and evolving indigenous knowledge through contemporary artistic expression, making a substantial impact on the incorporation of indigenous wisdom in the art world. #ContemporaryArt #IndigenousCulture #WindsOfChange #PodcastInterview

My special guest is Al Hubbard

Al Hubbard is a contemporary indigenous artist born to a Navajo father and Northern Arapaho mother. Being raised off the reservation in Idaho Falls, Idaho and Las Vegas, Nevada, his parents taught him to be proud of both his native bloodlines. After relocating to the Wind River Reservation at age 17, he developed a deeper appreciation and respect for both tribal cultures.

It is from this early path of movement that Al gained his perspective of the world around him. The method of reflecting his environment after enrolling at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico became a lifelong journey of storytelling through memory, concept, and visual language. His development of painting is based within printmaking techniques, photography, mark-making, and image-transfer. His exploration of textures and color is based in landscape, environmental, and indigenous material culture. The layers of acrylic mediums, colors, and images are carefully applied to the surface and sanded to reveal the historical process.

The unique manipulation of the materials he chooses reflect the historical complexity and multi-levels of living as a Native American in today’s world. His efforts to challenge the anthropologic narrative and to transform the pop culture image of Native America through his works remain an ever-evolving path. Al currently resides on the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  •  Learn about the rich tradition of storytelling in Native American culture and its profound impact on art and identity. 

  •  Explore the profound influence of oral traditions on indigenous knowledge and gain deeper insights into its significance in contemporary art. 

  •  Discover the pivotal role of art in preserving and celebrating indigenous heritage, fostering a greater appreciation for cultural diversity. 

  •  Hear Al’s Native American identity story and discovery through art, gaining a deeper understanding of the complexities and beauty of indigenous experiences. 

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

  •  Sign up for the newsletter by clicking on the link in the description of the podcast. 

  •  Learn more about Wyoming humanities at

  •  Follow Al Hubbard on Instagram for updates on artwork, events, and exhibitions. 

Follow Us on These Channels;

Listen on all your favorite platforms and subscribe! 

As always leave a review if you enjoyed these stories and follow us on Instagram or visit the webpage of the Wyoming Humanities!

Sign Up for our newsletter Here:


Welcome to winds of Change, brought to you by Wyoming humanities. I am your host, Emy DiGrappa. Winds of Change is a unique focus on the people, places, and history of Wyoming. Please sign up for our newsletter by clicking on the link in the description. Learn more about that’s t h I n k for think w y for Wyoming.         

      and in this new series that we’re doing, we are featuring what we call Spark play, places of innovation. And I’m going to let Lucas talk about that more. Lucas is my co-host with me today, and he’s our program coordinator with Wyoming humanities. And places of innovation highlights the ingenuity of rural Wyoming.         


They do that through voices, visuals, and experiences of those who’ve lived it or are living it, whether technical, social, cultural, artistic, or blend of All those, innovation reflects the unique spirit of rurAl communities. And in these spark conversations and congratulations, Elle, who’s with us today, I’m going to introduce our special guest, Al Hubbard. He’s going to tAlk about his work as a contemporary indigenous artist. Elle has a rich heritage, both from the Navajo and northern Arapaho tribes. He spent his early years in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Las Vegas, Nevada, far from the reservation, actually.         


But still his parents instilled in in him a strong pride in his native roots. And at age 17, Al moved to the wind river reservation, which deepened his appreciation and respect for his tribAl cultures. And so that shaped his personal and artistic identity. And I want to say welcome, El.         


Thank you. That was a great introduction. Like, I’ve never heard a better introduction than that. So thank you for that. And I’m so happy to be here.         


So first off, I want, because we’re doing the spark exhibit right now. It’s in Torrington. It’s a Smithsonian exhibit. I’m going to let Lucas talk about that. And then it moves to Douglas, I believe.         


Right, Lucas? Yeah. Back next week. I know it’s shocking, but it’s Already happening so fast. Early July, it’ll be in Douglas, which is pretty cool.         


Yeah. So spark places of innovation. The whole idea behind this exhibit is to show people the conditions that create innovation in a community. And the categories are technological, cultural heritage, artistic, and social innovation. What’s great about these themes that they’re so broad, it could really be any sort of, any sort of innovation can apply.         


And one of the things I’ve learned being a part of this exhibit is how unique artistic innovation can be. It’s not something I’ve thought about a lot. Those other three areas I’m pretty familiar with, at least I thought I was learning things in All four categories. But artistic innovation is really a cool approach. And so we’re really excited to have you here today to tAlk about your artwork and the trajectory of where you see art going in general, not just with your work, but probably even in the field itself, would be really interesting.         


I’d like to find out more about your thoughts in that direction, too. Yeah. When you say artistic innovation, like a light bulb pops in my head, like, that’s exactly what I strive to integrate into All my work, is how innovative is a painting, how innovative is the idea behind my visual language. So that’s Always been a big part of who I am as an artist. And I think a lot of it had to do with, you know, growing up off the reservation when I was younger and being exposed to different cultures and just living in a smaller town, like in Idaho Falls, that’s a small town.         


But then moving to Vegas, and then as a young adult in the eighties, you kind of start to find your place, and that’s when you really start to question your identity. And we would come back to the reservations every summer. My mom would come, would bring us to the wind river res every summer. So we knew who our connections were, our bloodlines. And so I think that really helped me determine who I was going to be and who I was at a younger age.         


And then once we moved back to the reservation when I was 18, I finished out my senior year at Wyoming Indian high School. And it was a big culture shock for me, so I wanted to get out any way I could. So I went to art school in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and met a bunch of people. And let’s see, I was doing art this whole time. I was doing making, drawing, not reAlly painting, but just being involved in the arts.         


And when I went to art school, it was kind of a big wakeup call because I was doing super realistic stuff, you know, working from photographs and stippling and trying to make it as realistic and as close as I could. But art school kind of does a weird thing to you. It opens you up into looking at other artists and other art. And, you know, when I first got to art school, I was like, oh, I don’t understand what abstract art is. I don’t.         


I don’t like it. So that was my immediate, you know, response to abstract art, which is weird, because I do that now. I use a lot of abstract forms in my paintings. So then I was able to meet a lot of mentors and people other artists that were really great and what they did, but they were Also teaching at the school at the time, like C. Max Stevens.         


Dwayne Slick was my painting teacher. One time in my painting class, I was so excited because I got. I was able to get a grant to go get art supplies. So I ran to the art art supply store, bought All these expensive paintbrushes. And Dwayne Slick would not let me use a single paintbrush the entire semester.         


He would. We at the time, the school was sharing the campus with the College of Santa Fe. So we, the Institute of American Indian Arts, had these old army barracks as studios. So it was really run down, you know, junk all over the place.         


And Dwayne would pick up stuff off of the floor, and he’d hand it to me and he would say, here, use this for the whole class. And I wouldn’t. So I never got to use All my new paintbrushes the entire semester. So that kind of opened up my idea of, like, what is he doing? And I hated him at the time because he didn’t let me use my paintbrushes.         


But later on, years later, I started to realize, like, he was trying to, you know, pull me out of this very rigid box of an artist, of what I thought I was. As an artist and as an indigenous person, you know, as native artists, we kind of feel like this pull towards making art for tourists or for non-artists or non-natives. And so the art begins to look a certain way. There’s a certain style to that when it’s focused toward consumerism or trying to sell a painting. And I, right off the bat, I said, I don’t want that to be my motivation.         


I don’t want money to be, you know, dictating what kind of art I’m making. So I’ve always just kind of allowed other. All these teachers, these great teachers. Like, I can’t stress enough how. How amazing these teachers were at that time.         


In the nineties in Santa Fe, I used to do. I used to work for them. I used to sometimes clean their houses to make extra money. And some of these older artists that were already established, you know, were kind of taking me under their wing and showing me what other ways of making art, you know, installation and conceptual art. And I really like that.         


And I think that’s when I really found my. Where I was comfortable as an artist, as a native artist. And I. I found out that there, you don’t have to make paintings from black and white, you know, 1800 photographs.         


They don’t have to look like the Edward S. Curtis photographs. You can paint about what’s important to you. And that’s a where I focused. And so I did a lot of traveling after art school, I went and lived on the east coast, lived on a west coast.         


I went back to Vegas and moved around a lot, met a lot of different people. And so I really liked meeting new people and going through All kinds of experiences, whether they were bad or good. And now that I’m older, I’m starting to rely on those memories and stories. And as an indigenous person, that’s how a lot of our information and our history and our knowledge is passed on through storytelling, oral storytelling. A lot of my work is based on that.         


It’s interesting because art as an indigenous person is kind of complex, I think, because especially being a contemporary artist, what’s the difference in your mind between the traditional native American art and the contemporary native american art? I’ve never really seen a separation between those two. I think a lot of it is based on this very colonized way of viewing Native Americans in itself. I think the art is seen as more anthropological rather than as something innovative. But I don’t really see a solid line between traditional arts and contemporary arts, because with traditional arts, you’re receiving the information from an older generation that’s thousands and thousands of years older.         


It’s an ancient knowledge, and that’s being passed down, and you’re utilizing that knowledge with whatever you’re making. And as a painter, as a contemporary painter or sculptor, I think that you’re doing the exact same thing, but the product that you’re producing is, it could be. It could be anything like a painting or a sculpture or beadwork. I don’t reAlly see a difference. But as native artists, there’s a big difference between.         


And I just found this out. Just epiphany came to me yesterday afternoon. I was applying for this grant. And, you know, when you go through these stages of a startup grant, you have to explain what your business plan is. You have to give a slideshow and all that.         


And I’m sitting here trying to figure out, how do I explain the importance of elders, and how do I explain the importance of knowledge keepers and how those people are my partners. So I worked for a school district here on the reservation, and part of my job was to create learning materiAls in a classroom that were customized for indigenous students. And trying to explain that to a non-native or in written form is pretty difficult and frustrating because some of the feedback from the jurors was, if you want to learn more about your culture or your history, let me give you a list. Here’s a list of museums you can go visit. Cody museum.         


You know, they do great with, you know, indigenous education. They gave me a list of books, and I’m like, wait a minute. This is kind of insulting because a non-native, and we’ve, you know, had. We’ve had to deal with this for years of non-natives telling us how to research our own culture or language. You know, I got a pep talk and I moved on and I said, no, I need to.         


I need to submit it, because I was ready to just give up and say, it’s useless trying to explain to someone who doesn’t understand or is. Because a lot of those comments were aggressive. A lot of them was like, well, this makes no sense. I still have no idea who your partners were. And I had it clearly marked in the.         


My business plan of who my partners were. And I had to go in there. And so I kind of responded to All those comments with, I’m not here to teach you the importance of our elders or the knowledge keepers or the language speakers. That’s your job. But my job as an artist is to convey All of that information, and then that hopefully will spark conversation in our school.         


That’s like, one of the main, you know, topics that they teach you is you want to spark a conversation. Anyway, I get off topic a lot, but I hope. I hope with my art that I’m sparking conversation, because as a native artist, when we look at our own work, when you go to art school, you learn about, you know, the elements of design, composition, texture, colorization, you know, All of that. You develop your own color theory. So that’s one way to look at art, but to look at the content or the concept behind the visual language, I think you really have to have some insight and appreciation for native culture to really get it because it is difficult to bring up these subjects of indigenous knowledge without pushback.         


And that’s frustrating because any given day, a native person, not just an artist, but a native person, goes through so many code switching. We have to switch it up constantly walking to Walmart, we have to kind of, you know, defend ourselves constantly. We have to demand our space that we occupy. And that’s unfortunate, but that’s something that we’re all used to doing, like when the differences between communities as well, like, when I first got to Jackson, I had a show in Jackson, and everyone was so super nice to me and saying, hi, how you doing? And I’m like, what do you need.         


What do you want? Why are you talking to me? You know, and that’s a very aggressive way of communicating, but it’s because we’ve had to do that. We’ve had to defend ourselves for so long, and we’ve had to demand our own space. Cause my mom, she’s a little bit elderly, and she came with me, and she’s, like, moving away from everyone, coming in, coming the opposite way.         


And I’m like, mom, don’t move out of the way. You don’t need to move out of the way, mom. But she comes from a generation where that was normal. You had to make space for others instead of demanding your own space. And I think that I touch on All these issues, native issues, but I do it in a subtle way.         


I consider myself an activist, but I don’t have. I don’t scream. I used to, when I was younger, I used to protest a lot. But I think as you get older, you find your own voice and your own language of how to protest and how to bring up these issues through your art. Yeah.         


Yeah, I wanted to. I’m glad you brought that up, because I want to. I think it flows into a question that I’ve had, and you might have touched on this a little bit, but maybe we can drill in a little bit more. But with your current collection touring now, way back now, right? Yeah.         


I want to make sure I get the name right. I’ve noticed that in a lot of art, and I could just be. Because I’m not an artistic person, really. I like to look at it, but I don’t, you know, so I’m no art critic, I should say. I’m not a professional in any way.         


But I’ve noticed that with some art, it’s an expression of a moment. Like, it captures a certain feeling or a time and space among so many. I mean, that could. The definition is broad on purpose, I think. So where do you see your current collection in the moment now or before?         


Where would you place that? That’s such a good question. I love that you asked that, because recently I’ve been really thinking about my connection to my culture historically and how it’s been portrayed or how it’s been presented in a museum. And so All my current work, there’s a word that popped in my head, and it was timeless and time travel, and I just liked the idea of, like, occupying space in three different dimensions, the past, the present, and the future.         


And so when Susan Durfee, who works. Who used to work for the Wyoming Humanities Council, in Jackson, she was. When I organized the show Along with Oona from the Center at Jackson, I was explaining to her, like, the meaning behind the paintings and how the connection and the ties it had toward my tribes. And so a lot of the work, I kind of reference time travel because we are time traveling. We don’t have categories or separation of history.         


Like, we are living history, but we’re Also living for the future. So it’s like a weird concept that kind of just recently seeped into my work. And it’s really interesting because I like the idea of space time and just how we. How I truly believe that we are able to live in the past and occupy the present and, you know, prepare for the future. And that’s my connection.         


That’s how I stay connected to my people. And I feel comfortable. That’s a good space to be because I feel comfortable being there because then I feel close to those that have passed on and through memory and story, I keep the guy, I keep my life. I use a lot, lot of polka dots in my work. And those reference, I call them spirit dots, but those reference my ancestors, those that have passed before me.         


So I’ve been using polka dots since I was 18 years old. I just started using them, and I can’t help not put them in there. Like, I sneak my polka dots in there whether I paint over it or not. I Always put polka dots in my paintings. But, yeah, that’s a.         


That’s a good question. Like, yeah, I mean, we don’t separate time. It’s not linear for natives. I don’t want to speak for All natives, but at least for my understanding and through my filters, that’s how I connect is time travel. So as I’m painting, I’m remembering certain designs that were used for mountains.         


I’m remembering the colors that they had used for moccasins or for a part, flesh design or box. Or maybe I read somewhere that, you know, about my ancestors, Chief Black Coal, or I remembered the concept idol. I’m really interested in the concepts of how my people lived a long time ago and then how they lived when reservations were being formed and how we live now and how some of the things that we. How we. How we do things and how we look at things, how we live our lives on the reservation, how that connects to.         


That directly connects to our past and how is that going to affect our future for the generation coming up now? You know, elders Always dictated on who was able to. To be in a relationship with because they knew your bloodline and if they. If there was any kind of connection, like if they were related some way, the grandmothers would Always be the ones to say, no, you can’t be with that person because they’re your relative. Right.         


Right. So, you know, we’re losing a lot of that, a lot of the older ones telling us, you know, what you can and can’t do. Because now our elders are like my mom, who grew up in a system where they were punished for speaking no language. And they were direct descendants of this whole mission to get rid of native american indigenous populations. I mean, let’s be honest, it was genocide.         


Congress had developed plans to get rid of natives. I mean, that’s just a fact. And a lot of people forget that. And there’s reasons why things are the way they are now. You know, it’s too easy to just kind of say, okay, well, you know, we’re not going to.         


We’re not going to talk about this. We’re not going to talk about that because I don’t understand it. But I think if you really do a deep dive study on our history, you’ll know why things are the way they are today. And I like to. I like to embed my paintings because I do a lot of layering, too, in my paintings.         


So I’ll sometimes I’ll throw, like, a receipt from an 18 hundreds or 19 early 19 hundreds. I have these. I do a lot of collage. So I have these receipts from these old stores. And a lot of people, you know, there’s a big.         


There’s a big trend in Native American art right now in the native American art world, that is ledger drawings or ledger art. And I think that if you’re going to approach a certain style, that you have to kind of give it credit to where the origins came from, of what ledger drawings were. And a lot of the ledger drawings were. Were from imprisoned natives. You know, our warriors were imprisoned, and they were remembering situations.         


They were remembering relationships. Sometimes they had two wives, three wives, and they were drawing these on ledger paper because that’s what was available from the soldiers. And so that was the time where it went from Buffalo hide painting to ledger drawing. And I think that with Ledger, I think that if we’re going to do an homage or do a reference to ledger art, I think it needs to be done in a respectful manner, a respectful way, a way where you’re remembering why our ancestors had to draw on ledger paper. So I’ve done a few things where I’m using ledger paper, but not in the style, because I think that that’s there, that belongs to them, that generation of artists.         


And there was no real separation of art between indigenous artists or people. There wasn’t like, oh, it’s time to make art now. It’s time to do bead work. It was just a part of our everyday life. And I think that.         


I think that’s interesting how when they were drawing these images on ledger paper, it was portraying memory and story. And I try to. I try to invoke All of that within my own work. That’s very compelling answer. I think there’s a lot to think about there, for sure.         


Thank you for that answer. This leads. I’m sorry, Emy. I’m kind of dominating the questions, but I have. This brought up another question that I had, and I don’t know if it’s because you mentioned the perception of time isn’t linear, and that’s a pretty cool interpretation.         


It’s very different. I’m a historian by training in theory. That’s the idea. Wow. It’s not really.         


It is kind of cool. Yeah. But it’s not something we don’t really sit down and discuss a concept of time. And so I’m pretty intrigued by this question and in your artwork, how it. And how it relates to this.         


So, historians, we often wrestle with memory and how it’s written down and the difference between the memory and what the actual event was, which is why we need so much other evidence to collaborate with someone wrote down or something, especially if it’s an event, you know, versus what someone’s just writing, their personal feelings about it, which is different. Right. We’re really trying to find something. And so in your work, and you’ve Alluded to this a few times, I think. But how do you interpret handle that big memory piece?         


And you’ve kind of Alluded to that with the ledger art, and I thought that was really compelling. But I don’t know if you could dig in that a bit further for us. Yeah, sure. So we’re just hearing you talk about you being a historian and how oral traditions are important and how native, or at least for Arapaho’s northern Arapahos, we took storytelling as fact. And so one activity we did, I’m going to reference something that I had done while I was working for the school district.         


I had two coworkers, and we would come up with these activities. And one activity was, you know, and it was seasonal. So, you know, if it was fall time, we would do what our people would normally be doing and turn them into lesson plans. Or activities. So during the winter time, one of our activities was storytelling, but it’s not storytelling in the way a non-native would picture it, because as a native person, storytelling is very important, and that’s how we would pass on information in our, teach the younger ones how to even listen.         


It starts with how to listen and how to be still and how to process information. So one thing wasn’t just that one thing. It involved, you know, All these different components of how to learn, how to listen, how to be still. And that was very important. So we wanted to bring that back.         


And so we had invited elders from the community to come and tell stories in Arapaho, and these were Arapaho stories. But before we begin any of a lot of these activities, before we even began anything, we we let the students know why it’s important to learn it, how to listen, and how to process information. And so that was a big. That was a big deal for me as an. As a native artist, you start to organize these ways of researching your own history.         


So explaining my history is important as reading a book. So when I’m talking about something, because when you ask, it’s kind of frustrating, because when I was younger, I used to be like, and I wasn’t raised on a reservation, so I wanted an answer for something. I’d ask an elder, and they would never give me a direct answer. They would start here, and then they would go on this tangent, I thought, and in my head, I’m thinking, like, what are they tAlking about? I didn’t even.         


This doesn’t reference anything that I just asked. And so they would tell me this big, long story that I did not understand, and then they would Always come back to the same point of origin and tell me the answer. But in order to get there, they had to take this journey to get there, and you had to have patience. I didn’t learn. I didn’t have that ability to listen, and I can honestly say now I do.         


So when you’re in a conversation with an older person on the resume, you better have. You better set some time aside. Even if it’s a simple question, you better set at least an hour time aside to get an answer. So that’s how. That’s how important oral tradition is, because I think a lot of people kind of they hear, oh, it’s an oral tradition, or it’s an oral story, or this history comes from, you know, it was handed down from stories.         


Well, and once they hear that, they kind of dismiss it, like, oh, it was told by so. And so, and you kind of have this preconceived idea of, like, oh, those stories must have, you know, developed into something else Along these years. But that’s why it was so important. When you. When an elder tAlks, you listen for every word that they’re saying, because there’s certain things are, everything that they’re telling you is important, whether it refers to your question or not.         


Everything refers. Everything is important that they’re saying. And it’s important to intake All of that, because when they do finally give you an answer, if they give you a direct answer, the process of getting there is more important. So when we’re talking about certain stories or certain events that have happened in the past, I think it’s important to really realize, like, what’s the setting, who’s telling me this? And really taking note of the time and place, your surroundings, of when you’re hearing these stories, because that’s important as well.         


Everything is important when. When I hearing historical stories. But, you know, we’re in this digitAl age now where you can easily start recording. And I used to do many documentaries for the students at the school district where I would interview elders and they would tell us stories. But it’s reAlly easy for technology to kind of take over or to take the lead.         


And I kind of fell into that, like, for a few months there, I was like, we have the technology. We have the tools to do this. You know, why don’t we do this? And then, you know, my coworker, Elena Singer, she kind of slowed me down. She was like, well, why are we doing this?         


What’s the purpose behind this? And I was like, oh, I just thought it would be cool. And I’m like, wait, no, we shouldn’t do things just because they’re cool or because we can. We should use technology as a tool to help assist and support ideas. Just like when I’m painting or drawing, I shouldn’t just paint or draw something because I know it’s going to sell or I know it’s relatable that’s taking the easy route or throwing some neon colors on a black and white photograph copy and calling it good and calling it native art.         


I think we have to really investigate. It’s our responsibility as native artists to really investigate and be innovative and an artistic way, because that’s what our people did. And we have to honor that. That process of being innovative and finding new ways of expressing ourselves and telling stories. They have a purpose, is what I’m getting from this.         


Like, yeah, technology. Use this stuff with a purpose don’t just. I see, that’s. Yeah, because when we talks about history or science or conservation, it’s not separated. And I Always started my talks.         


Whenever I talk to the students, I’m always telling. I’m always telling them there’s no separation. It’s not culture time. It’s not language time. It’s not math time.         


It’s not, you know, All of this is integrated into our being. And our people look to the stars every day. They looked at the ground, they looked at the sky, and they figured out how to live within these environments, how to live in a good way, in a very cohesive way where you’re respecting the animals fellow people. And, you know, I’m not saying that we were, you know, living in the garden of Eden, you know, running around naked, but we had a respect for our environment in a way where it’s. You don’t want to sensationalize it or romanticize it.         


I think a lot of times people think that we automatically know how to speak to animals or that if we start singing, butterflies will come to us and land on our hand. But, you know, it’s very romanticized. But, you know, there was a time where we could talk to animals, but in a very realistic way. And I think that if we approach All of this indigenous knowledge in a way where it’s not romanticized, I think that’s important to cultivate our present day and to prepare for the next generation. We have to teach them how to listen.         


So when I make some of my paintings, like this painting behind me, it’s a blank. I do a lot of white-on-white paintings, but I’ll throw in different pop images or different references to my culture or stories. And I like to do that because you don’t understand it right away. And I want, when I do my paintings, I want the younger generation to kind of have to figure it out and maybe see something that they’re familiar with and say, hey, I know what that is. I did a painting of geometric forms, and I asked one of my friends who, she’s not an artist, and I asked her what she thought of it, and she was like, oh, you’re referencing stars, DNA and turtles.         


I was like, well, you got it. You understood it. And it was just from geometric, but she probably knew what those geometric shapes meant. As a collective, I think we have an understanding of what certain designs, visual language, what it means, because a lot of our families do bead work. A lot of them make beadwork, and they come up with their own designs but they’re based within their own families of what their families, what they created.         


And I think that’s really interesting, how those designs are passed on or how that visual language is passed on through. It went from quill work to beads to, you know, incorporating different mixed media. Now, when even a simple earring could mean something or it could just be decorative, you know, not everything has to be serious and relatable to, you know, our culture. I think sometimes things can be decorative. I can throw Mickey Mouse on some tissue paper and make a lamp.         


Sure. Sure. Is that indigenous art? Yeah, I think it’s indigenous art, you know? Well, I think what was interesting about Lucas’s question and the way you explained the storytelling with the elders is that not everything can be found in a history book.         


Right. And a lot of times that gets lost on us, because when you are, you know, in college and you’re searching for the right information, you’re searching for the facts. You want everything to be factual so that when you put it out there in the world, it just doesn’t come from one person’s mouth. It comes from a lot of different sources that you can reference. Right.         


And I think that’s what’s been very difficult about understanding Native American history is because it is, and that’s how they passed on their history to each generation. So my question is, how are you bringing that up again to your young people? How are they understanding how important it is to learn from their elders? Has that become lost, and are you reviving it through your artwork and through your teaching? I would like to believe I am.         


I’d like that question because you bring up a good point of storytelling and how a non-native would kind of view storytelling as, like, oh, it’s a myth or a legend. And I’m always correcting people saying, no, we don’t have a myth. We don’t. There are no legends. That’s fairy tales.         


And they kind of put that category of native storytelling into this myth or legend box. And so, before we would start any activity, if we had someone telling a story, we’d make sure that the students knew, this is not a myth. This is not a legend. This is factual history. This is a part of you that we’re telling you.         


And so we Always made a point to make sure that the students heard this, and then we would tell them the importance of how to listen and why it’s important. And now a part of your question was, do I think we’re losing that? I think. I don’t think we’ll ever lose that. But I think it takes on different forms, and I think I would like to believe that I’m a part of that movement, of how to be innovative and how to story tell and how to rely on memory in a factual way and then present it in my own visual language, in my own style, I guess.         


And that doesn’t have to be, you know, artistic. It can be if you want to be a mathematician, if a student wants to grow up and be, work for NASA, or if they want to be a carpenter, why not do it from an indigenous perspective and rely on what you were taught or those stories that were told to you? Why do our houses, if you are a carpenter, if you grew up to be a carpenter or an architect, why do houses have to be box with a with a triangle top? Because you look at the triangle form of a teepee.         


It’s effective, it’s efficient. Just the whole form of a triangle has been used in architecture throughout the world. You look at the pyramids in Egypt and South America and even here in our own lands that form even the teepee. You know, why aren’t we pushing more indigenous students to go on to architecture school to become architects? And why aren’t we supporting, you know, carpentry?         


Why aren’t we supporting other, other vocations where we’re integrating indigenous knowledge? If you’re a mathematician, look at geometry and how geometry was based within our own ways of living as indigenous people. So I think it’s important to distinguish that storytelling is not myth or legend and that it is factual and that there are embedded stories within those stories and lessons to be learned within those stories. Does that answer your question? Yeah, no, I.         


Absolutely. I think that that’s what is so interesting in the humanities. It is Always the age old question, is the question why? And our human experience, whether you’re native, non native, everybody has that burning question of why they do what they do. And, you know, how.         


How did we get here? And I think you’re doing important work because you’re, you are looking back, but you’re Also looking forward and living on the reservation, you know, as a. As its own rural community. That’s how you are creating this place that. Where you can reach young people and help them navigate and hang on to and carry forward their own native culture.         


That’s super, super important. Yeah, I really, really like that idea, what you just said, because I think that I’ve never been motivated by art. I mean, by money. I’ve never made art to sell. I mean, it’s a great it’s a great part of it.         


But this artist I used to work for, C. Max Stevens, she’s an installation artist. She never sold anything. And I’d go to openings, and they were huge openings in Santa Fe, and she would have these rooms, you know, installation pieces, and people would come up and say, hey, I want to buy this wall or I want to buy this pile of noses. And she’d say, well, they’re not for sale.         


And she never sold, because she was an installation artist, she never really sold anything, but she made tons of money through grants and fellowships, and her work is amazing. And that fact that a lot of people don’t know who she is, I mean, she’s getting older now, you know, but just seeing how she turned away money, she wasn’t in it for the money. I Always admired that. And so I talked to her last month on the phone, and I told her, yeah, I’m not really motivated by money. And she was like, well, if you can make money off of it, then do it.         


I’m like, you are my big motivation on not making art to sell. And now you’re telling me to sell it. She’s like, well, if you can sell, if someone appreciates what you make, then sell it. So I think that with this younger generation, I think that I tried it. Like, we worked on a painting, an oversized painting for the library, and I wanted to stress the importance of the concept and the content inside.         


The painting that you’re making is more important than the value that you’re going to sell it for. And I think that too often, young native artists are pushed to sell or to make art that is recognizable or digestible for the masses. And making things can be commercial, you can go down that road. But I think if you really want to make a difference and you want to be a part of this innovative, artistic road, then I think that you have a responsibility to be innovative, to question the tools that you’re using, the materials that you’re using. If you’re using acrylic paint, why not try oil paint?         


If you’ve tried both of them, why not try incorporating something else? Why not make your own paint? What did our people used to make paint out of? You know, and just questioning everything and trying everything, because then that’s how you establish yourself as a young artist. And I love to see collage and mixed media because that’s the artist experimenting and playing around with new materials.         


And that’s how I got where I am because of the great teachers I had. They would subtly introduce different things. Try collage, try shadow boxes, try installation, try sculpture using a bike tire. And I just. I’ve been on this path for so long that I think you.         


I realized, like, I’m happy with the path. You know, I wasn’t so rigid. You know, I didn’t go to art school saying, oh, I’m. I’m this kind of an artist, you know, but I Always had a very well-defined sense of identity. You know, I knew I didn’t grow up on a reservation, but I knew who I came from.         


I was proud of All of that. I’m proud to be Arapaho. I’m proud to be Navajo. And I think it’s important to embrace All those things about you. That way you can incorporate that into what you’re doing.         


And it affects in that way if you’re true to yourself when you’re making art. I think it affects others in a way where. And it’ll surprise you because it has surprised me over the years where people have come up and said, your painting is amazing because this is. And then they go on to describe what it. What it’s done for them.         


And I’m sitting there like, wow, this person really understood. And they got everything that I was putting into these paintings because I think of my paintings as kind of a poet poem. I’m incorporating maybe, you know, collage or texture or a certain color or different iconography from my tribal background, and I’m combining it and arranging it in a certain way. And I’m hoping that, you know, it makes sense, but I’m, you know, that’s not my big motivation. And if it does, in the end, speak to other people, that’s pretty amazing.         


And it makes me feel really good because that’s happened. Like, just the other day, I sold a painting, and she told me how it was important to her, and she told me the story about how it was important to her and her husband and the importance of rivers and water and conservation. And we went on to this tangent, this conversation about this river in Jackson, how it goes underground and how it’s formed and how it’s controlled. That whole conversation started from one painting, and I think that’s important. As native artists, I think it’s important to relay our history, history into our paintings and not just do a pretty painting and hopefully sell it for $10,000 so I can pay the rent.         


You know what I mean? I’m in this for the long haul. I will be doing art for the rest of my life, and I’m more interested in creating innovative, progressive art. Wow. Well, it has been so great talking to you, Emy.         


You have such a great perspective in the way you explain it. And I think I’m going to name this podcast that your art is a poem. That is so beautiful. I like that, too. Yeah.         


Yeah. That’s something I picked up on, too. So thank you so much, and I’ll let you know. Oh. What I want you to do before we end is how can people find you?         


How can they learn more about you? Do you have Facebook, Instagram? Do you have a website? Where are the places? Yeah, so I’m on Instagram.         


That’s the main social media, where I post All my artwork, events coming up. And you can find me at Al Hubbard art. That’s a l h u b b a r d a r t. Okay, great.         


All right. And I’ll be showing in Jackson at the historical museum, and I’ll be in Cody in July. The third week of July. Yeah. I’ll be doing an artist residency there.         


So if you want to stop by and say hi, you want to speak? Yeah, you can reach me on my Instagram or come check me out and Cody. All right. Well, thank you. Thank you so much.         


Thank you. Oh, yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Take care.         


You, too. Bye.         


Thank you for listening. I’m executive producer Emy DiGrappa. Winds of change is brought to you by Wyoming humanities, our co-hosts and all the people who generously share their stories and their time. For more information, go to, dot subscribe and never miss a show.