Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Duane Slick

By Leanne L’Hirondelle



 Duane Slick’s (1961 – , Sauk, Fox, and Winnebago Nations) work takes the form of books, paintings, and prints. In the early 1990s he worked with colorful abstracts and gradually shifted to work that is nearly monochromatic and figurative. Presently his figures can appear transitory, fragmentary and border on the elusive. The theory of absence and presence can be applied to his work. Through the raw shadow of an image,

he creates a longing in the viewer to discover, in the hint of it that is left on the surface of the canvas, the actual or absent object. The importance of time, the play between surface and image, are concerns for Slick. The shadow that he captures is the intangible linked to the tangible, as seen in the acrylic-on-linen work White Bird Circuit (2007). Slick is protective of the cultural knowledge acquired from his family; therefore his work can be interpreted as a means to play with reality without specifically naming or giving away information.

Black Vortex, 2009 Acrylic on glass, 19 x 19 inches Courtesy of the artist

Black Vortex, 2009 Acrylic on glass, 19 x 19 inches Courtesy of the artist

Slick confronts issues of materialism; hence he dematerializes by revealing the essential shape ofan object, symbol or person. The figures in his paintings are taken from shadows that he projects and then traces onto the canvas. Through this process he acquires the intangible (the shape or presence of the object), without giving a literal interpretation of the object itself. He creates through the process of addition and subtraction, by layering and erasure, until the work appears to him complete.

An important example of Slick’s body of work includes The Coyote Papers: Instructions on the Care and Use of White Space: A Coyote Primer for the Next Major Columbus Discovery (2003). This work was based on a question posed to a 1992 College Art Association session “Everyone Needs an Indian, organized by James Luna, which included major Native American artists. The first audience question presented to the panel concerned Native peoples’ response to crop circles. The question did not take into account the significance of the panel, essentially that they were there as professionals. In this brilliant bookwork, Slick uses Trickster Theory (humor and deception to reveal absurdity) to dislodge and unpack colonial assumptions about Native Americans. Slick believes that one is accountable to what one witnesses, and that he/she has a responsibility to reveal the questionable, offensive or destructive nature of unbiased racial assumptions. Slick is a Professor of painting and printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design and holds a BFA (University of Northern Iowa) and a MFA (University of California, Davis). He has exhibited widely at both national and international institutions including the C.N. Gorman Museum, University of California and the Jan Cicero Gallery, Chicago, as well as having served on numerous panels, boards, and committees including the College Art Association Committee for Diversity Practices and its Board of Directors.  He is the recipient of numerous awards, most notably from the Joan Mitchell and Rockefeller Foundations.


Path of My Fathers, 2007 Acrylic on linen, 54 x 79 inches Courtesy of the artis 











 Additional Resources compiled by students in Contemporary Native American Art History course at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Spring 2013. 

Web Resources 

“Duane Slick.” 

This link leads to Duane Slick’s website. Here you can view images of his work, writings, resume, and artist statement.

“Duane Slick: Ronald and Susan Dubin Fellowship 2010.” School for Advanced Research

Duane Slick received the Ronald and Susan Dubin Fellowship in 2010. This page has a short biography commenting on Slick’s work during his fellowship. It also contains images of Slick’s process.

Selected Bibliography

L’Hirondelle, Leanne. “Duane Slick.”  New Native Art Criticism: Manifestations. (Santa Fe: Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, 2011). 

This is the citation for the biography provided above. This book is useful for someone researching Contemporary Native American art and artists. Not only does it contain many biographies, but is also has some very interesting essays.  

Slick, Duane. “Duane Slick.” Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2. New York: Museum of Art & Design, 2005.

This is a citation for the artist’s statement commenting on The Meaning of Art, 2003. This book shows three of the six panels consisting of acetated imprinted with photocopied images, acrylic, Plexiglass, human hair, industrial nuts and bolts, and hinges.