Sarah Tye Diego Romero


Sarah Tye


Visiting Artist Paper

ARTH 3539


            I work on Tuesdays so I was unable to attend any of the visiting artist lectures this semester, so I went to the VRC and checked one out. Unfortunately, there were no videos of lectures from this semester, so I just asked the women behind the counter to give me something interesting. Coincidentally she handed me the video of Diego Romero, a Native American artist, a topic I have recently taken up an interest in. The lecture is from September 26, 2000.

Diego Romero begins his lecture by stating that he is Native American and Pueblo Indian. He has a background of traditional pottery, and it is reflected in literally all of his work. All of the slides he shows are of plates or vases reflective of American Indian work, which he was always surrounded by, growing up in New Mexico. It is the historic tradition of this culture that he uses for inspiration, his goal to fuse historical context with his contemporary thought. And his solution is very successful.

Each of Romero’s pottery pieces contains narratives, surrounded by traditional geometric Native American patterns. They would appear to be ancient—prehistoric even—from afar, but this is his intention. His pieces lack color, his entire collection done almost entirely in black and white. Each plate or vase contains figures that he painted in a sort of savage, uncivilized style. However, the scenes depicted by these figures are far from prehistoric. The scenes, at a closer look, actually depict the narratives of the artist himself. These prehistoric savages are driving cars, gambling, going to bars with a friend (who Romero refers to as his “jungle brother”), and even being followed by aliens. They are truly contemporary narratives from a prehistoric approach to style and the Native American use of symbols and metaphors. Although he rarely uses color, and his images are flat and basic, they are very interesting, but his later pieces are even more successful.

Amongst the slides of these black and white figure paintings, randomly a slide of Roy Lichtenstein appears. Before anyone can ask the question, Romero explains that Lichtenstein played a crucial role in his inspiration for his more recent work. In these pieces, he uses his prehistoric-styled figures in his narratives but the scenes have a more comic-strip looking appearance. The inspiration of Lichtenstein is obvious and the scenes are very informal. But this is his intention, and it is a clear one; to tie his contemporary world, with the responsibility he has to include his historic world. Up close his work is modern, but once again from afar they would appear to be the art of an ancient American Indian resident of New Mexico. It is these prehistoric figures, traditional symbols and juxtapositions, accompanied by his own innovations that make up his style.

Diego Romero is very articulate about his work. Although I have never seen it in person, and was not even there for his lecture, I really understand his goals as an artist. I do see more of a resemblance to ancient Greek pottery than he gives credit to. And, I think acknowledging the presence of an influence from ancient Greek red-figure and black-figure pottery painting technique would really help to further describe his artwork.

This particular artist was interesting to me. I am an art history major, and after college I plan to go into the auction industry. A highly regarded auction house, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers that began in Chicago—where I am originally from—recently opened up a Denver office. In March, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to help out at their first auction here, which just so happened to be Native American art. The artwork sold at the auction was actually provided by the private collection of man from New Mexico, where Diego Romero is from. My job at the auction was to show and distribute the pottery pieces. Huge coincidence that this was the video randomly given to me from the VRC. Anyways, the pottery at the auction was for the most part, traditional Native American artwork, so it was really nice that I was able to compare the traditional to Romero’s contemporary take on the traditional. I think I was able to appreciate this particular artist’s work a little more because of that, and I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation.


One Response

  1. I’m not familiar with Romero’s work, but I’m very intrigued by your essay. Your descriptions of both the actual work, the artist, and the lecture itself is very good. Being able to discuss the concept behind his
    vital to the meaning and importance of his work it seems. The personal story at the end was nice too, it added some outside influence and personality.

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