SFW&C Fiesta Featured Artist 2016
Vigil Gray, of Jicarilla and Apache/Kiowa Apache heritage in northern New Mexico, has been called the “Golden Boy of the third generation” of Native American painters. He began studying art in 1975 while enrolled in the high school program at Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts. He later studied at the College of Santa Fe and the University of New Mexico, but by 1986 had given up academics and was painting full-time.
Inspired by several artists over the years (most notably the great Kiowa/Caddo painter T. C. Cannon, Vigil Gray’s first mentor), since 1990, Vigil Gray’s work has reflected his admiration for Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, as well as members of the Bay Area Figurative movement—Elmer Bischoff, David Park, and Richard Diebenkorn.
As he has said of his painting technique: “I have to make a lot of chaos, and out of the chaos I start massaging the forms into play. It’s almost predestined, but I have to go through this process of chaos and find resolution to it.”
The canvases he’s become best known for are his “mythological” paintings, or “dreamscapes”—ambitious compositions of haunting characters created entirely out of his imagination and often draw from the area near his homeland near Abiquiu, New Mexico.