Nocona Burgess presents strikingly modern depictions of Indigenous men and women from various tribal Nations of North America. His paintings mix careful research, firsthand knowledge and raw passion. By combining brightly colored shapes with crisply outlined facial features and traditional dress, Burgess explores the cultural context, life story and identity of each sitter. In this way, the artist urges us to update our perceptions of Native people and consider the intriguing and often highly politicized place of Native American portraiture.
Burgess is a member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. He is the son of a former tribal chief and the great-great-grandson of one of the most revered Native American leaders, Chief Quanah Parker. Burgess grew up surrounded by art. His father went to art school to focus on drawing and painting, and his grandmothers made quilts and beadwork from their own designs.
Nocona received a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and a Masters in Art Education from the University of New Mexico. He was fascinated by how more traditional forms of Native art evolve into contemporary movements. This fascination came to define his focus, leading him to reinterpret traditionally inspired portraits with his own modern slant. It is the notion of the modern Indian that he seeks in his work and recognizes in himself.
By painting with vibrant pigments onto dark backgrounds Burgess has perfected a method that he describes as “painting outward”. This approach produces the richly contrasting colors of his distinctive canvases and gives his art a vivid depth. Burgess’ paintings inspire and educate through their unusual techniques and positive dialogues between past and present.
Painting for Burgess is a way of reaching out to others. He strives for an intimate connection with each subject, eager to know their characters. Through his paintings Burgess says thank you to his ancestors for their sacrifices in helping to make the contemporary Native identity what it is today.
Nocona Burgess’ paintings have received numerous awards and have been featured in many publications. He exhibits throughout the USA and beyond in Australia, England, South Africa and Sweden. They can also be found in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, Bristol Museum – Bristol, England, American Museum – Bath, England, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture – Santa Fe, NM and many more.