Lee Bogle and "Native American Love"

February 14, 2011 — 10 Comments

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!

Adrienne K.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11954832174809120089 The CBear

    What? You’re a real people? lol
    Ah, you’ve taken on my personal nemesis, Lee Bogle! I wrote a little about him not that long ago, contrasting him with Bunky Echohawk.(http://tinyurl.com/4weukh3)
    I still love his “quiet inner peace” crap, makes me think he doesn’t actually KNOW any real Natives.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00629727123135969063 StandardSpicyWhatnot

    I love your blog, helps me notice things I wouldn’t normally!
    Maybe you could comment on the character Chacotay in Star Trek VOyager? Have you seen that? I have been re-watching the series and they do a lot of that ‘quiet inner peace’ and other stuff with his character.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08705672876556960419 e

    Ha! I like how whenever Chacotay has the deep thoughts the soundtrack is always “spirtitual flute”. I wonder what the reaction would be if Sisco’s thoughts had been acommponied by drum music.
    Also, let this post be a big ole valentine to you,Adrienne! This is one of my favorite blogs, I’m really glad you take the time to write it. Thank you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11108146071098063314 Bruce

    Ah Chacotay a walkingh stereotype

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08183686721305419157 Kelly Hogaboom

    Living in the PNW I have seen many, MANY white artists co-opt in so many ways. The ick-factor is high. It’s confusing for me as in a gallery I’ll see tons of pieces and have no idea how they curated them; which pieces, if purchased, would support a Native artist and which would support a Bogle.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10696020348394369313 The Hand Of Fatima Design

    omg!! believe it or not, people of color love these images. really unbelievable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01764767230813526982 Bihinix

    Tena koe Adrienne. He mihi mahana tenei ki a koe. Many greetings to you. I am a Maori woman from Aotearoa New Zealand. I’m a recent subscriber to your blog and find it very informative and insightful. Of course the parallels between our peoples with regards to experiences of appropriation are profound. We too have had images and discourses of the ‘dusky maiden’ to continually deconstruct and resist. These images seem to me to serve a discursive purpose for non-natives as it assists them to understand native people as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. These pictures are the ‘good’, ie, spiritual, peaceful, clean, harmonious and not the ‘bad’, lazy, savage, complaining, warrior like, (but often code for resistant, proud and strong). It helps whites in particular feel that they are engaging with ‘the natives’ without their comfort zone of history, power and dominance being threatened.

    Power and perseverance to you wahine toa (powerful woman).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16129210217777837909 delux

    E, if you’ll check the LOTR flicks, the Orcs and those (Maori) Uruk-Hai came with the most percussion…

    Anyway. Adrienne thx for the great post, although I’m not going to recover from the Awful Native Art blog anytime soon. Yeesh!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06272785040239270440 Adam

    Don’t forget that a lot of contemporary artists dress their work up in statements just like Bogle’s, if not more pretentiously. I bring it up because he’s got the added luxury of hiding in a convention of language, where it’s even less-likely to be critiqued.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15527004451052445651 Elizabeth

    I also have to say I do not see any woman over 30 (or appearing to be that age) in these photos. As if the “Older set” cannot find love. Of course I could rant on an on about the sexualized imagery and and the way all (Native) men have to be naked. Imagine men who look at that picture and think “Gee, I do not look like that, I guess I will never find love” I Think Bogle dug up Fred Harvey’s rose colored glasses and wore them for each painting. Want to know what is worse? this sorts of crap is still sold at the Indian Pueblo Culture Center’s gift shop-at least when I went. I realize we can boycott all non-Native touristy gift shops selling that, but please do NOT sell this crap on reservation territory!