Artist and activist Gregg Deal is passionate about his Indigenous community and family.
The Peyton-based artist's new downtown mural, "Take Back the Power," is intended to bring awareness to Indigenous women, girls and LGTBQ people who face a high risk of going missing or being murdered. The work is part of the 22nd annual Art on the Streets exhibit, which populates downtown with free public art throughout the year.
"It goes back to representation," says Deal. "A lot of representation sexualizes Indigenous women, from Disney’s long-legged Pocahontas to the way women are portrayed in pop culture. There’s a stereotype and representation of Indigenous women throughout American culture."
The 77-foot-tall mural being painted on the east brick wall of 3 N. Tejon St., formerly Carlie's Convenience Store, will be the largest in the country to address the issue, Deal says.
In the mural, Deal paints his 14-year-old daughter, Sage Deal, with a red handprint plastered over the lower half of her face. It's a reference to the national #MMIWG2S campaign, which stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People (the Indigenous name for LGBTQ individuals). The painted Sage wears a contemporary concert T-shirt of her favorite band along with Indigenous accessories.
"It’s the intersection of real people with real issues," says Gregg. "Being American and holding the identity and culture as Native people."
Accurate statistics are not available for how often Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ people go missing or are killed, he says.
"Native people don’t fall on the spectrum of those statistics at all," says Gregg. "They don’t keep track of Indigenous people. We make up one percent of the population, and it’s argued that’s too few to matter. That’s five to eight million Indigenous people in the country."
Deal, who was a juror for last year's Art on the Streets, also has been an artist-in-residence at Denver Art Museum and Smithsonian Institution. He's lectured for National Endowment for the Arts and TED conferences, and appeared on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. His paintings are displayed in museums and private collections across the country. His murals have appeared in Denver, Boulder and Minneapolis.
"There are many issues that are heavy and divisive," Director of Urban Engagement at Downtown Colorado Springs Claire Swinford says about the message of the mural. "This has no opposing viewpoint. It’s an incredibly disturbing problem everyone needs to be more invested in for accountability."
The Art on the Streets exhibit will open with a free public scavenger hunt from 5-8 p.m. Aug. 7. The seven sculptures and six murals will remain on display through May. For more information, go online to downtowncs.com/live/arts-and-entertainment/aots.