Happy Valentines Day everyone! Last year I posted a bunch of vintage valentines with Native imagery, and the Vintage Valentine Museum has a bunch more that are worth a click. This year I thought I would share the “art” of Lee Bogle, whose images have become synonymous with “Native American Love” (just google it, you’ll see).
My friends apparently find it entertaining to send me postcards with these paintings on them, I’ve definitely opened up my mailbox more than once to find a Lee Bogle original staring back at me.
So where to even start with these ridiculous romance-novel-esqe images? I mean, clearly, they eroticize and sexualize Native peoples, but they also rely on the ubiquitous stereotypes dark skin, long hair, images of nature, feathers, fur, buckskin, headbands, etc. I picked out the ones that are supposed to represent “love”, but there are many others that highly sexualize Native women alone.
Most people can look at these and see them for their ridiculousness, but the problem is that they are reproduced millions of times all over the internet, with “Native American Blessings” or “Native American Love Poems” emblazoned across them. There are entire websites dedicated to e-cards, desktop backgrounds, cards, and t-shirts of these images.
If it weren’t obvious, Lee Bogle isn’t Native. He’s a white guy from the Pacific Northwest. His official website says this about his use of Native imagery:
Collectors know him for his images of Native Americans, often solitary figures of women. “I try to convey a spirituality in my art that the viewer must interpret for himself,” Bogle says, “I want my paintings to show a peaceful contemplation and express a depth of serenity that comes only with quiet inner peace”
Since all Natives are innately spiritual and have a “quiet inner peace,” right? But this by all means is not an isolated artist or isolated incident. There are hundreds of non-Native artists that make their livings off perpetuating stereotypes about Native people and preying on mainstream romanticized and idealized notions of Natives. Contemporary Native peoples don’t look like something out of a crappy romance novel, and images like Lee Bogle’s perpetuate stereotypes and erase our current existence and diverse and real people.
So with that, wishing you lots of Native love this Valentines Day!