Ryan Singer, 2008
|Birth name||Ryan Singer|
|Born||August 24, 1973
Cedar City, Utah
|Nationality|| Navajo Nation and
|Field||Painting, drawing, screen printing|
|Training||BFA Arizona State University|
Ryan Singer is a Navajo contemporary painter living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of the Tódich’íinii clan, born for Kinyaa’áani. Singer is known for his vibrant pop art look on contemporary and historical Native American and popular culture.
As far back as I can remember I have always loved art—drawing, painting, making music. What I like most about it is the freedom to create something—anything—from nothing. - Ryan Singer, 2009
The best thing for a kid is encouragement. My mother always got me art supplies and encouraged me. I think that was all it took. –Ryan Singer, 2009
Born in Cedar City, Utah, Singer grew up on the Navajo reservation and credits Tuba City, Arizona as his hometown. As a child Singer gained inspiration from watching his uncle, also an artist, painting in his studio, and from the comic books he read. In the summers he would attend Navajo sheep camp, where he was taught to understand the Navajo language despite not being fluent.
At the age of 10, Singer started studying art books and familiarized himself with not only Western artists but also Navajo artists like Shonto Begay and Bahe Whitethorne. He also became interested in surrealistic artists such as Salvador Dalí.
As a youth he became engrossed in punk rock culture, immersing himself in 'zines, skateboarding and music. He graduated from high school in Window Rock, Arizona in 1992 and entered Northern Arizona University studying forestry, inspired by his interests in the outdoors and environmentalism. This led to him working for the United States Forest Service for five years, when he left disappointed with the red tape of big government. Returning to college in 2004 he started studying fine art at Arizona State University, eventually becoming a full-time artist.
When not creating art Singer serves as an art juror, art handler, graphic designer and an artistic mentor for emerging artists. In 2010 he co-founded Native Artists For HOPE, a grass roots organization that provides mentoring, workshops and artistic empowerment to young Native American youth. Singer currently lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his girlfriend, Nathania, who runs his website and online sales. His work is represented by a number of private galleries.
I don’t like to conform. That’s what art is about—freedom. That’s what being an artist is. The most important thing: Speak your own truth. - Ryan Singer, 2010
Singer pulls from two major sources for his influences: popular culture and elements of Navajo culture. Influences of comic books, record album covers, and science fiction are combined with a pop art sensibility. He also cites the visual appeal and stories of Star Wars and classic films and television programs such as Star Trek, Godzilla, Flash Gordon and black-and-white horror films.
Singer's first completed painting was at the age of 16; a self-portrait with him wearing a Batman t-shirt and his head wrapped up like a mummy. Upon returning to college he was offered two major opportunities: a commission to create illustrations for a book published by Salina Bookshelf and a museum exhibition.
In early 2000 Singer had a vision: "About 10, 15 minutes before going to sleep, I was dreaming with my eyes open...I could see myself driving on the side of a cliff and I saw the sign. I sketched it out and went to sleep." This experience would lead to one of Singer's most well-known images Wagon-burner; a yellow road sign that depicts a covered wagon with flames in the back of it, rolling down a hill. It is a pop art response to the wagon trains that littered the Old American West as they traveled through Navajo and other Native American lands.
A tribute to Andy Warhol, Sheep Is Good Food takes Warhol's iconic Campbell Soup can screen print and combines it with a Navajo twist. The Campbell Soup can is turned into a can of mutton stew and instead of the Campbell gold seal, Singer placed an image of a sheep being lassoed. The image has become one of Singer's most popular, landing the cover of the Phoenix New Times in 2010. The original is housed at the Heard Museum.
- 2012: Low-Rez: Native American Lowbrow Art, Eggman and Walrus Art Emporium, Santa Fe, NM
- Pop!: Popular Culture in Native American Art, Heard Museum, Phoenix AZ
- Transcending Traditions: Contemporary American Indian Artwork, Mesa Center for Contemporary Arts, Mesa, AZ
- I Didn't Cross the Border; the Border crossed Me, Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Lloyd Kiva New Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
- Cover Artist, 2010, Phoenix New Times
- Artist-in-Residence, 2009, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
- Cover Artist, 2009, Native Peoples Magazine
- Adult Smile Award, 2008, Santa Fe Indian Market
- Judge's Choice, 2008, Heard Museum Indian Market
- Honorable Mention, 15th Annual West Valley Invitational Native American Arts Festival
- Honorable Mention, Heard Museum Indian Market
- 2nd Place in Painting, Drawing & Graphics, 57th Navajo Festival of Arts & Crafts
- Best in Division, 2005, Heard Museum Indian Market
- Ryan Singer (2009). "Artist Statement". Biography. Ryan Singer. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
- Rick Abasta (2009). "Self fulfillment over monetary success". Navajo Nation Fair. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
- Ryan Singer (2010). "Resume". Resume. Ryan Singer. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
- Drew Cline (2009). "Native Pop Artist Ryan Singer". Java Magazine. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
- Samara Alpern (2010). "Young artists and the new school". Art News. Alibi. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
- Native American Artists go Lowbrow in Low-Rez, Santa Fe.com, accessed 8-12-2012