Dale Deforest is a member of the Diné tribe and grew up in the Four Corners area of the Navajo Nation, around Shiprock and Farmington, New Mexico. He graduated from high school at the Navajo Preparatory School in 1995, then studied 2-D arts and photography at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Dale’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions. Most recently, his piece titled “The Force Is With Our People” — an exhibition celebrating Native people’s relation to pop culture, most notably, Star Wars — was shown at the Museum of Northern Arizona. Dale has won many awards from the New Mexico Press Association for his marketing and advertising work. He says that he is most proud of receiving the New Mexico Inland Press Award for his work with the City of Santa Fe to bring awareness to sustainability and recycling. Dale enjoys fixing small electronics, computers, and gadgets, and he lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“This piece is part one of an ongoing depiction of notable individuals in politics, education, activism, and business. My hope is to produce as many images as possible depicting the political climate, while highlighting individuals of Indigenous origin actively making change, not just in my community, but on Turtle Island, collectively. Eventually, I would like to publish these images in a printed gallery with stories of experience and hope written by myself and other contributors.” —Dale Deforest
What does the idea of “justice for Native communities” mean to you?
When I hear that phrase, I think of how Native communities don’t necessarily have the same rights as other people of color. There is a global social movement in favor of communities of color and creed, however Indigenous communities are still ignored or just not taken seriously due to ignorance and/or stereotypes. Even now with several Indigenous lawmakers and elected officials in office, the road still is not paved or as well-traveled as it could be, which is why we need to pay closer attention to young voters, who could very well dictate our future.
What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?
We cannot let the small stuff slide. We need accountability, not only for those who trespass against us, but also for our own communities. Together, we are stronger. Yes, Natives know this. But we cannot stand strong if we cannot stand together.
How do you express justice through your artwork?
I employ high-contrast and thick lines to convey bold imagery matched with bright and vivid colors. Artwork that can be used to not only express, but captivate and manipulate thought and action has always been my goal as an artist. I like to convey attitude and irony, with a sense of reflection for whomever my audience might be.
Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?
We have a long way to go to achieve justice for Natives. However, we have very little time. If I can do anything to create change on a small or large scale, I am here for it.