The Shelby Artists: Gregg Deal

gdthumbAn intrinsic element of The Shelby community is the people that helped to create it.  These ‘artists and craftsmen’ are the people that have actualized our vision.  It is important to us that we share with you the stories behind the talented people that have dedicated their time to creating a place for you to call home.

Welcome to our series, The Shelby Artists.



Gregg Deal is a husband, a father, an artist and a member of the Paiute Tribe of Pyramid Lake.  As a provocative contemporary artist, activist, and 15-year resident of the DC metro area, much of Gregg’s work deals with indigenous identity and pop-culture, touching on issues of race relations, historical consideration, and stereotype.

Within this work, as well as his paintings, mural work, and print work Gregg advances issues within Indian country such as decolonization, the mascot issue (local and across the US) and appropriation (You can read more about some of Gregg’s recent advocacy work in this Huffington Post article). Within the context of such heavy subject matter, Gregg speaks intelligently to these issues, brings a sharp wit, and is keenly aware of his place as an indigenous man and a contemporary artist.

Gregg Deal is a man on a mission and we absolutely love that about him.  Deal was brought into the mix of artists featured in The Shelby by the curation team at SwatchRoom.  The team at SwatchRoom could not have brought someone on-board that is more passionate about making a difference than Gregg Deal.  We are excited to feature Gregg in our series, The Shelby Artists,  – he exemplifies what The Shelby stands for and the story behind the people, the design, and the community.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Gregg Deal about his work featured in The Shelby. 

1. What piece do you have in The Shelby?
Untitled Indian # 1 – Mixed Media

Untitled Indian # 1 – Mixed Media

2. What was the inspiration behind this piece?

I am often inspired by things new and old. The old images by photo historian, Ed Curtis (and the like), are so interesting to me. These images were captured at the time to represent the ‘dying race’, while not being true to the subject.  They were often staged to fit the romantic viewpoint of the photographer even though many of the outfits used did not belong to that specific tribe.

“To me, there are few things more powerful than the portrait of the human form.”

I am constantly drawn to this type of humanity, but I also am very aware that we are in a modern world. Abstract, often geometric shapes and lines, are attractive to me as a designer and contemporary artist. The use of spray paint in this piece (including the figure) is meant to be a comment about contemporary and modernism.

The juxtaposition of these things matched with something that is perceived as old, relic, and extinct, when it is none of those things is interesting to me.   It’s great to watch people make their own assessment.  In a way, i suppose it’s a trick – relevant to being a true comment as a living breathing Indigenous person with a modern eye and awareness of history and culture.

3. What does ‘Americana’ mean to you?

Americana is about Romanticism.  The ideas of colonialism and the ‘old west’ to the 60’s nuclear family.  These are all things caught and captured within the American romantic ideals, the Norman Rockwell picturesque ideas.

My painting fits in this category, but with a more modern vernacular.  It plays on the Romantic Nationalism of Americana, while still challenging modern vs. old Americana to people that are more conscientious of their social, political, and historical surroundings can see it as being a thing that exists in American culture, but doesn’t exist at all.  That makes it beautiful.

We invite you to stop by The Shelby to see Gregg’s piece in-person.  You can also find out more about Gregg Deal and his work by visiting his website.  We recommend following him on Facebook and Twitter.  You can also purchase his work by visiting his online store.

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