Joseph Bergen is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and grew up in the southwest United States. He studied art at the San Francisco Art Institute, Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, and Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He lives and works in New York City where he experiments in many media but focuses on oil painting.
Rejecting the easy myth of the “Noble Savage,” I focus on the internalized trauma of a colonized people in a way that explores the issues facing Native Americans today. Frequently Native Americans are portrayed as caricatures either as sports mascots, the antagonists in westerns, or simply reduced to a headdress at a music festival and as a result are relegated to history books where they become unreal. I draw on historical and contemporary imagery of the people, places and events that shaped, and continue to shape, the cultural identity of millions of people both united, and divided by a common past.