Since they were kids, cousins Ryan and Monty Singer have shared a love
of art that is stronger now than ever before
Award-winning artists Ryan and Monty Singer didn’t grow up together, but
the cousins share more than a last name.
“Two peas in a pod,” said Ryan in a recent phone
interview with Local iQ. “We have similar taste in music, similar taste
in art. There are some differences but we’re basically about the same.”
The cousins spent summers together outside of
Flagstaff at the studio of Monty’s father, well-known Diné painter Ed
Singer. Both youngsters shared a love and talent for drawing.
“We used to have these little drawing contests, said Ryan. “We’d sit in a room drawing, not really talking for a while. After we’d get done, we’d be like, ‘Hey, check this out.’”
The creative battles ended when Monty moved to Albuquerque with his mother and Ryan continued to live in Arizona. The two lost contact for about 20 years and connected briefly before being separated again. It wasn’t until 2004, when Monty found Ryan’s e-mail address online, that they rekindled their connection through art.
“He was (working) on his art a lot,” said Ryan, who was living in Phoenix after finishing his studies in art at ASU. “He’d ask me all sorts of questions about art. We used to talk on the phone for hours.”
Eventually, Ryan decided to move to Albuquerque to be closer to the many galleries, collectors and art shows in New Mexico that had contributed to his success as an artist. Monty lived here, as well, and Ryan says the two have been like brothers ever since.
While Monty and Ryan have distinct styles and artistic voices, they share a similar vision. Both have a penchant for pop art aesthetics, which they incorporate into their art as a means of making satirical social and historical commentary on Native American life. Ryan’s takes on Warhol’s soup cans read, “Navajo Mutton Stew” and Monty’s portraits of Betty Paige show the model standing in front of Navajo rugs and Jackson Pollock paintings. Ryan said pop art conveys meaningful ideas while maintaining the interest of viewers.
“People respond to pop art because it’s kind of interactive. A lot of people get a kick out of it,” said Ryan. “You can paint a scene of a massacre or something really bloody like that, but you turn off some people. Some people get turned off by obvious images.”
Monty’s pastel drawing, “The Long Walk,” is one example of this brand of subtle but powerful imagery. The painting features an aged Native American woman in humble traditional attire standing in the aisle of a modern casino. She stares at a slot machine bearing the images of Kit Carson in military garb. The title refers to the treacherous 18-day trek made by thousands of Navajos who were being relocated by the American Army to a reservation in southeastern New Mexico. Like the work of Ryan’s inspiration, David Bradley, the painting’s juxtaposition of seemingly incongruent elements forces the viewer to reconsider his or her assumptions about the subjects.
Blood Quantum II
The Singers’ two-man show, Wrestling with Paint,
will showcase many of the pop art works of both artists. For the second year in a row, the show coincides with the Gathering of Nations Powwow.
The success of their opening event last year prompted the duo to follow up with a similarly festive opening this year. The reception on April 23 at Third Street Arts will feature live music performed by Saving Damsels, as well as food and drinks. —Sophia Carvlin Miller
Wrestling with Paint
Works by Ryan and Monty Singer
6-11p, Fri., Apr. 23
1-7p, Sat., Apr. 24
Third Street Arts | 711 3rd SW | 505.265.5109
montysingerart.com | ryansingerart.com