Douglas Miles

Douglas Miles

Douglas Miles interview by Phil Freedom

Douglas Miles is a San Carlos ApacheAkimel O’odham painter, printmaker and photographer from Arizona, who founded Apache Skateboards and Apache Skate Team. He is nationally recognized and a veteran in the Phoenix mural scene. His giant, bright and colorful depictions of native women’s faces are beautifully elegant, and sometimes combined with hardcore imagery and text. He has a few pieces from years prior in Oak Street Alley as well as the front of Barrio cafe, and many other murals all over the Southwest and the country. We wanted to have him be a featured artist this year at the Mural Festival, and he also hosted a discussion/workshop at the Hive Backyard the day after. I figured I should reach out and throw him a few questions to get a better idea of who he is and what he is up to.

When did you 1st get into doing street art and murals?

I’ve done murals before but first started doing aerosol murals in 2013 at Self Help Graphics in ELA with Thomas “ Breeze” Marcus and Vyal Reyes

Douglas Miles art at the Skatepark
Douglas Miles art at the Desert West Skatepark

I was excited when I saw one of your characters in New Orleans outside at BMikes studio… Where else have you been able to travel to and and put up art?

I have painted murals in New Orleans, Boyle Heights CA, South Bronx NY, Miami FLA, Oakland CA, San Francisco CA, Globe, AZ , Northwood IA, Las Cruces & Santa Fe NM

I just watched the Documentary you were a part of, The Mystery of Now, and it was interesting to me that it felt like punk rock and skateboarding help a lot of the youth on the reservation just like kids in the city…Do you think punk, skate, and graffiti culture call to all the youth?

I think punk rock and skateboarding will always call to kids from all marginalized communities because it always allows for freedom of expression aka DIY aesthetic.

Do you have an overarching message with your art and/or Apache Skateboards, or do you feel that things get addressed as they come up?

In the beginning When I started Apache Skateboards I wanted it to be a vehicle to foster and encourage pride in our tribe. The pun is literally and figuratively intended. The medium becomes the message in some instances. It was art for youth but it’s also fine art for collectors. It has become a movement of sorts encouraging kids from all over to explore their own creativity and fun adventures as having no limit.

I see American Rent is Due in your work… is that paid with money, or can u elaborate a bit on that?

When I said American Rent Is Due and placed it on a large mural on the Navajo Nation in Northern AZ , I wanted American visitors and viewers to recognize a debt owed to Native people due to the loss of land , resources, squatting and land theft by settlers and corporations and robber barons. It’s a simple yet important statement in an American history that has been whitewashed to justify land theft and exploitation of Native nations.

What do you feel museum culture gets wrong? Right?

I like museums but there is a lot that museum staff and museum culture gets wrong about Native people. Museums don’t define Native people or Native Art. We, the Native artists and culture makers do. If you’re not careful these museums will steal your culture and charge you money to see it.

Douglas and fam

What kind of projects do you got going on for the rest of this year?

A lot. We have to schedule and plan to fulfill all our projects. Traveling with the Apache Skate Team is a big part of it. The Apache Skate Team is one of the most influential agents of change in Native communities that no one talks about . These skaters, filmmakers and artists have shaped new Native (youth) culture for almost two decades now.

Whats next? What do you wanna see in the future?

In the future we see you and artists like you who are contributing to change in your community . That’s what we see and thats who we work with. We don’t work with clout chasers or shallow influencer culture. Real influence comes from real hard work in a real hard community. 

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