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Introducing Jesse Littlebird

March 4th, 2024

In the Studio with Jesse Littlebird

Collage of photos from inside Jesse Littlebird's paint studio

Jesse Littlebird's paintings are a captivating blend of Indigenous heritage and contemporary expression. His artwork narrates stories that are rich in symbolism and cultural depth, drawing inspiration from Southwestern landscapes, Indigenous cosmologies, and historical perspectives. Littlebird's work blends Western and Indigenous thought elements, inviting critical reflection.

A field of brightly colored buffalo souls at the foot of a distant mountain shadowed by a rich sunset
Jesse Littlebird, Enlightened Buffalo Souls Coming Down from Tetilla Peak No. 12 Mixed media on canvas, 60
Jesse Littlebird, Enlightened Buffalo Souls Coming Down from Tetilla Peak No. 12 Mixed media on canvas, 60"h x 48"w

In terms of his creative process, Littlebird works on different series, using unique techniques for each. Initially, he focuses on composition and guiding the viewer's eye, considering the size and dimensions of the canvas. Overcoming the blank canvas hurdle is often challenging, but he gradually builds up layers, letting the paint dictate certain aspects and embracing spontaneity.

The artist applying first few paint layers to a canvas with previous works behind the easel

Littlebird typically begins with quick and malleable materials like acrylics or house paints, laying down colors to get a sense of the overall idea. As the foundation takes shape, he returns with oils, either tinting areas or enhancing elements to make them stand out. He also likes using spray paint because of its immediacy, allowing him to create a burst of color and decide later whether to keep or modify it.

Two-part collage of the artist using spray paint on canvas, next to a shopping cart piled with spray cans in the studio

Littlebird often explores motifs and revisits and refines over time. Working on multiple pieces simultaneously allows for natural pauses, and he believes there are no mistakes in the process; it's all part of the artistic journey.

Numerous canvases in various sizes and states of progress leaned against studio walls

Regarding his current works, they are pieces from different series. However, when planning a solo show, he aims to focus on a single series for cohesion. Currently, Littlebird is working on a body of work for Indian Market this year, aligning with the concept he's been developing called "PromisedLand." This thematic approach allows him to explore various themes that resonate with him, using one-word titles that encapsulate a lot within their simplicity.

The artist working amidst large canvases leaning against far wall, with a large table covered in supplies occupying the middle of the room

Littlebird's paintings act as storytellers, urging viewers to engage with the intricate symbolic representations that capture narratives rooted in the oral traditions of his Pueblo Indian lineage (Laguna and Kewa Pueblos). Beyond their aesthetic appeal, each piece serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of Indigenous culture, acknowledging the past, existing in the present, and reaching toward a future beyond the Settler Colonial era. In essence, Jesse Littlebird's art is a bridge that connects worlds, offering a visual journey through the complexities and enduring beauty of Indigenous cultural realities.

Jesse Littlebird stands in the middle of his large studio space, surrounded by surfaces covered in canvases, supplies, and works in progress

View work by Jesse Littlebird HERE


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