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Nostalgic Mythos': A Whimsical Fusion of Diné Culture and Pop Art

January 22nd, 2024

Within Indigenous Futurism, a movement exploring Native culture through a pop culture lens, Ryan Singer stands out as a unique voice. The Diné painter uses whimsical elements to serve as the colorful palette for his imaginative and lighthearted creations in acrylic and occasionally oil. Singer's art not only showcases his far-reaching creativity but also reflects his deep affection for the subjects that captivate his mind.

Studio wall featuring a self portrait of Ryan Singer along with posters and other of his works
Shelf in Ryan Singer's studio depicting tools, cassette tapes, and Star Wars collectibles

His depictions often weave together pop culture references with Navajo lore, injecting a fresh energy into the viewer. However, Singer resists being confined to any specific label, even one as fitting as Indigenous Futurism. "A lot of my ideas come from growing up on the rez," he shares. "But I'm also a Gen-Xer, exposed to sci-fi, punk rock, and video games. I like to include scenes from the rez because they remind me of a childhood of freedom and discovery, creating a sense of nostalgia for those days."

Holding up a work-in-progress painting in the studio

Singer's latest exhibition, "Nostalgic Mythos," is set to grace the walls of Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe starting January 26, 2024. This showcase promises a visionary treat of scenes ranging from scary dinosaurs mingling with Diné sheepherders to Star Wars characters engaging in epic battles in the desert. Random sheep and UFOs floating in the sky provide a delightful touch. Amidst these imaginative depictions, the mesas and rock formations of the Southwestern desert serve as a grounding backdrop, creating juxtapositions of disparate times and cultures.

Finished piece leaning in the studio of a scif-fi character with a desert southwest backdrop

"I've worked in many different mediums over the years," Singer notes. "But I really prefer painting in acrylic because it dries so fast that I'm forced to work quickly, and because I love the vivid colors. The cultural mash-up of sci-fi and rez scenes is part of my real life."

Singer draws inspiration from a broad and varied spectrum of influences, including Salvador Dalí, Fritz Scholder, and his own uncle, Ed Singer. However, his primary aspiration is authenticity. "I try not to worry about what people would like me to paint," he emphasizes. "But I do want to inspire the younger generation." For Singer, art is a reflection of everything learned and seen in life, and painting is akin to a visual song—a mental, emotional, and visual interpretation of the world.

Finished piece leaning in the studio of a desert scif-fi character holding a rainbow snowcone

As "Nostalgic Mythos" unfolds at Blue Rain Gallery, Ryan Singer invites his viewers to embark on a journey through his vivid imagination, where the past and present collide in a celebration of culture, nostalgia, and the boundless possibilities of art.

Selected paintings of Ryan Singers work

View works by Ryan Singer here.


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