Darren Vigil Gray grew up on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in Dulce, New Mexico, the son of a Jicarilla Apache father and an Oklahoma Kiowa mother. He left the reservation at age 15 to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and graduated in 1977. He went on to study art at the College of Santa Fe and the University of New Mexico. Since that time he has been prominent in the Santa Fe art scene, primarily as a painter but also as a musician.
Vigil Gray’s paintings tend towards abstract expressionism, and are predominantly acrylic on canvas. Other mediums include oil on canvas and monoprints. Subjects include Northern New Mexico landscapes as well as dreamscape / figural compositions with mythological imagery. His first mentor was the great Kiowa/Caddo painter T.C. Cannon, who encouraged his students to “create their own mythology.” Other influences include Fritz Scholder, and Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Elmer Bischoff, David Park, and Richard Diebenkorn.
Vigil Gray lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife, Jill Momaday (daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday) and their two daughters.
Artist statement, 1997: As an artist, painting continues to be a way to speak...a way to face life's most difficult challenges. My choice to live an artistic life stems from a lifelong desire to evolve differently from the others around me. At an early age I escaped the system of the reservation. This decision opened up a whole universe of ideas and sensibilities to me that would help me reach my artistic goals.
At this stage in my career, the reverse can now be said. I desire to go back to my roots, to the place from which I emerged, and to the place where I will finally return...if not physically return, then spiritually and psychically. In certain circles, the trend is to go back to understand and retrieve our indigenous past. The oral history contains great reserves of imagery that I can draw from to express universal ideas, situations and themes. These are the tools that will help me to discover where I have been, where I am now, and where I am going.
As a modern Indian and a modern painter, my greatest challenge is to straddle the two worlds in which I exist...keeping one foot in the modern world, without compromising the elements of the natural world that feeds and nurtures my spirit. Most of the time spent in my workplace tends to be a battleground of ideas and of finding new ways to bring life to a dead, two-dimensional surface. The paintings remain a mystery to me, even after I believe that they are complete. I much prefer the idea of artist as mediator...the mediator between the earthly world of paint, and the unearthly realm of artistic creation.
If the paintings are of landscapes, the location invariably remains the same. This process allows me to mold and shape the one locale innumerable times, until I have come away with an idea of what is there. The wonderful thing about looking at, and depicting the real world, is that it is never the same for each individual, nor is it the same from painting to painting. The most exciting things occur when the figure, head study, or intuitive mark-makings manifest their forms on the canvas. There is a rhythm that begins to flow. This is a much different rhythm than occurs in the landscapes. This rhythm is of a more personal and private nature, and it has the ability to take me to some level of spiritual experience. I believe that this experience has to do with a type of power that you don't always posses...a type of power, which comes to you after time.
Art is like my religion. My faith is in having all the elements come together to make that one good painting. These are the moments I live for.
DARREN VIGIL GRAY
Birthdate: July 29, 1959 Tribal Affiliation: Jicarilla Apache/Kiowa Apache
1985-86 The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 1978-79 The College of Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico 1975-77 The Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS:
2003 "We’re Still Here With the Mountains," Group of Six Apache Painters and Sculptors, The Hubbard Museum of the American West, Ruidoso, New Mexico
2002 "Common Ground," Group Exhibition, Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona "Countetclockwise/20 year Retrospective," Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
1995 "Campsite," Peyton-Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico "The Walk," Friesen Gallery, Seattle, Washington
1994 El Mundo del Arte de Nuevo Mexico, Salon Guadalajara, Palacio Municipale Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
1989 The Common Ground, New York, New York "Five Contemporary Native American Artists," The Gibbs Museum, Charleston, South Carolina
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS:
1997 The IAIA Experience, Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico 1996 Charlie Russell Art Auction, Great Falls, Montana 1993 Lollapalooza Tour, Native American Mural Project, Various U.S. cities 1990 The Art of the West Invitational, Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana Art and Cuisine of the French Culinary Institute, New York, New York 1986 New York Art Expo, New York, New York Taos Spring Arts Celebrations, Sixty Contemporary Southwestern Artists, Taos, New Mexico Politics Now Exhibit, Reinventing Politics Symposium, Telluride, Colorado 1985 The Art of the Native American: The Southwest from the late 19th Century to the Present, Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, Owensboro, Kentucky Los Angeles Art Expo, Los Angeles, California Two Person Show, Sacred Circle Gallery, Seattle, Washington 1984 Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University, Bristol, Rhode Island Walk in Beauty, The Festival of the Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico U.S. Customs House Museum, New York, New York Quinnipiac College, New Haven, Connecticut 1983-84 Annual Indian Art Exhibition, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Avery Fisher Hall, New York City, New York 1983 The Institute of the American West, Sun Valley, Idaho Musee de l'Homme, Paris, France 1982 Armand Hammer United College of the American West, Montezuma, New Mexico One with the Earth Exhibit, Trumball Art Guild, Warren, Ohio The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. Stanford University Faculty Club, Palo Alto, California 1981 Turtle Museum Premier Art Show, Niagara Falls, New York 1979 Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York, New York 1978-79 Annual Indian Market Show, Santa Fe, New Mexico PERMANENT AND PRIVATE COLLECTIONS:
The Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona The Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico National Museum of American Arts, Washington, D.C. Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York, New York Museum of the American West, Sun Valley, Idaho Museum of Mankind, Vienna, Austria Philbrook Arts Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma Gilcrease Art Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma Norman Mackenzie Museum, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut The Stamford Museum, Stamford, Connecticut Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Washington, D.C. Robbie Robertson, Santa Monica, California Phillip Glass, New York, New York Sylvester Stallone, Santa Monica, California Judge Reinhold, Los Angeles, California Peter Cetera, Sun Valley, Idaho R.C. Gorman, Taos, New Mexico Buffy St. Marie, Kapaa, Hawaii Daniel Lanois, New Orleans, Louisiana Bernard Pomerance, Galisteo, New Mexico Kirk Hammett, San Francisco, California Ben Kingsley, London, England Steve Miller, Sun Valley, Idaho Billy Corgan Raymond James Ltd.