Best known as a painter of western landscapes, Brad Kahlhamer's work fuses the exuberance of expressionistic painting with the visionary traditions of Native American art. At the Neiman Center he embarked on a series of etchings that isolate some of the figures in his work. The Skull Project is a suite of six intaglio prints. Figures and animals form a narrative on Native American culture. Portrait composition presents these as objects of memory, history and imagination with a coarse etching line. A bikini-clad female in top hat wields a big gun in Clouds and Wind and another scantily dressed female gets a close-up in Cherokee Princess + Taxidermy. Herein dead trophies circle her seated figure, all indigenous species from the western plains. Other images of the set are portraits of bison, owl and wild boar. A skull finishes off the portfolio with macabre effect.
Central to Kahlhamer's work is his compelling biography. Born in 1956 in Tucson, Arizona to Native American parents and adopted by a middle-class German-American family, Kahlhamer grew up without knowledge of his tribal affiliation. His work explores his own displaced Native American identity as well as the position of Native Americans in mainstream American culture. He earned a BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1982 and has received grants from the Marie Walsh Sharpe and Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundations. He has had solo exhibitions at the Massachusetts College of Art, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Madison Art Center and is represented by Deitch Projects in New York and Kantor/Feuer Gallery in Los Angeles. He lives and works in New York.