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Weasaw, Shoshoni, 1898 30x40

Featured Article

Meet the Artist:  Aaron Hazel

Aaron Hazel is an award-winning artist whose recent work focuses on minorities of the West, who are vastly underrepresented in general academia.  His work has been featured at the Museum of Pop Culture (Seattle), on the corporate walls of Starbucks, Facebook and Nike, and in numerous galleries spanning Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.   Hazel also serves on the Jury Committee for the Out West Art Show in Great Falls.


Tell us about your artist journey. 


I was an art major in college but never thought painting as a profession was plausible. That said, I never stopped painting.  In fact, some of my first clients were co-workers from the bar I worked at in Bellevue. I bartended at Joey's for 6 years, and during that time I got to know several of the Seattle Seahawks players who’d sit at the bar and we’d talk sports. Eventually, the players found out I was an artist and commissioned me to do paintings of them in action on the field, notably Kam Chancellor, and Golden Tate at that time. That created a bit of a snowball effect with their teammates who’d then commission me, and eventually, NFL players on other teams reached out as well. So, I guess I started to feel “official” around 2012. Around that time, I also took workshops and worked independently with an incredible impressionist artist in Idaho. That was huge for me, as I was then introduced to the fine art gallery world. I went full-time in 2014 and got into my first gallery in 2016.

What inspires you?


People have always inspired me.  As a person of color, I have also been inspired by the history of minorities out west. I feel like that was not thoroughly examined in our curriculum at school. Even then, I knew there was much more to learn, and my recent work reflects the ongoing investigation into unearthing the stories of the underrepresented.

November is National Native American Heritage Month.  What have you learned about Native Americans through your art?


I think our society has cast a large net over our indigenous people, deeming their language, customs, dress, and identity all to be in lockstep with one another. This seems to have been the case in media, film, and literature. Natives have been portrayed as caricatures of spirituality, yet savagery, almost mythical beings of western lore who no longer exist. Obviously, this is not the case, but I embarrassingly had to learn the nuances of each tribe much later in life than I’d like to admit. There are similarities, sure, but some alarming differences, notably in battle. Not all tribes got along, understandably, but during the peak of Native/ Settler tension at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, I’d assumed that all Indigenous would join in the fight of resistance to white settlement. This was not the case, as many Natives notably the Crow tribe fought on the side of the US Army serving as Indian scouts. On its face that was alarming to me, but was also enlightening in that it reveals just how varied each Native person/tribe/ideal was. Again, you cannot just fit Natives into one overarching box however one thing is undeniable, they are all human, and need to be treated as such. Above all, I take the utmost care, consideration, and research when painting my Native subjects. I do my best to learn about my subjects and their history. If I can’t find any info beyond their name, I try to inform my audience of their tribal affiliation, the year that the photograph was taken, and any other details I share. If I cannot find the subject's name, I will not paint it, as that, to me, seems appropriative.

  • Big Fox, Arapaho, 1898, 30x40
  • Straight Forehead, Oglala Lakota, 1901, 30x40
  • Many Turning Robes, Blackfoot, 1920, 16x20
  • Weasaw, Shoshoni, 1898 30x40
  • Joe No Heart Yankton Sioux 1930 36x48