Indigenous art. Indigenous perspectives.

Chaz John’s residency goes to the (rez) dogs at Ellsworth Gallery


Two Rez Dogs and Pile of Frybread by Chaz John. Image courtesy of Ellsworth Gallery

SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s not often that dogs attend art openings, but several (along with a cat) were present for the opening of Chaz John’s residency at Ellsworth Gallery in Santa Fe, where he is working on paintings for his series Rez Dogs. His residency has recently been extended to April 13, which is also the date of the Rez Dogs exhibition from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. in the gallery.

Chaz John (Winnebago-Mississippi Choctaw) has created several drawings as part of the Rez Dogs series, which looks at the rez dog as an allegory.

Forever Dog and Fry Bread by Chaz John. Image courtesy of Ellsworth Gallery

“Often the rez dog is used as a metaphor for life on the reservation,” John says in his artist statement. “Their image is used as a symbol to poetically depict suffering on the rez, but as a species, they gain nothing from [this representation]. As an observer, I tend to look at art with the target audience in mind so have only seen humans as its target audience. This led me to the concept of creating a show for a species other than ourselves.”

The paintings depict canines alone and in groups, sometimes in a serious manner and other times alongside stereotypical “rez” images like frybread and spam. The paintings are hung low, at a dog’s eye level.

Rez Dog and Commodity Peanut Butter by Chaz John. Images courtesy of Ellsworth Gallery.

“While the paintings and their display are vitally important, extending the show’s invitation to rez dogs as an exclusive celebration and seeing the gallery space itself overtaken by the dogs themselves is the ultimate conceptual goal,” John writes.

The residency, including the final exhibition, works in collaboration with local animal shelters, as Johns explains, “to come full circle as a direct action to tangibly give back to rez dogs and to potentially open up more doors for them, literally and metaphorically.”

The artist will be working in the gallery on Fridays from 3:00 – 6:00 pm, Saturdays from 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Sundays from 11:00 – 3:00 pm until the final exhibition on Friday, April 13. Ellsworth Gallery is located at 215 E. Palace Avenue in Santa Fe. For more information on this and other happenings at Ellsworth, visit the gallery’s website.


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