Breckenridge displays Gregg Deal’s ‘Roots Radical’ Indigenous art exhibit |

Breckenridge displays Gregg Deal’s ‘Roots Radical’ Indigenous art exhibit

See the live performance art piece Friday

“Roots Radical” is the latest show by artist Gregg Deal. The exhibit is open at Old Masonic Hall in Breckenridge through May 8.
Tripp Fay/For the Summit Daily News

Gregg Deal is present.

The Native American artist based in Colorado Springs works in performance art and other mediums to disrupt preconceived notions of Indigenous culture. He uses his presence in spaces to garner reactions from people, whether it be getting a tattoo live to highlight discriminatory blood quantum laws about Indigenous heritage or focusing on the importance of voice and legacy at the Smithsonian Institution.

Deal will be tapping into that presence Friday, April 1, for a live performance of “The Punk Pan-Indian Romantic Comedy” at Old Masonic Hall, presented by Breckenridge Creative Art. Like a one-man show, he’ll be talking about his past and familial relationships, sharing stories that are funny, terrible or formative to his life over 47 years.

In between the series of spoken word vignettes is interstitial music, such as a recording of the song “Bad Indian” from his punk band Dead Pioneers. The band is a more recent addition to the piece, having appeared in a Fort Collins performance in 2020. Yet “Pan-Indian Romantic Comedy” — sans punk — debuted at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 2015.

Washington has been an important part of Deal’s life in more ways than one. His wife grew up in northern Virginia, and he moved to the East Coast to be with her and improve his access to the art world.

“We packed up the car, said goodbye to my family — who were all in Utah — and then drove across the country and got married all in the same week,” Deal said.

If you go

What: “The Punk Pan-Indian Romantic Comedy” by Gregg Deal

When: 6 p.m. Friday, April 1. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Old Masonic Hall, 136 S. Main St., Breckenridge

Cost: Free. Visit to register, space is limited.

He became interested in art while growing up in Park City, Utah. Though he struggled with the traditional structure of classes, Deal said it was the only thing he was good at. It was expensive for him to do sports, but he did ski and snowboard thanks to second-hand equipment and school partnerships with the resort. He was consistently drawing because paper and a pencil were more accessible than other art forms, and he found it to be a good escape for him socially and mentally.

“My parents made just enough money for us to be broke around rich white folks,” Deal said. “It was weird. I’ve been married for 23 years, and my wife told me it was not like that growing up for her.”

He studied art at George Mason University, first wanting to study film, but moved into graphic design and eventually painting. The summer after college, he worked for a sign company before getting a job at the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in the museum’s visitor services department.

In spring 2005, Deal participated in a mentorship with James Luna, accompanying the performance artist to Venice Biennale. Though he had a bad experience with the medium in a college class, what he learned about while studying under an artist opened his eyes to the possibility of performance art as a viable medium.

The 2008 recession dried up Deal’s freelance work, but he kept hustling as a self-employed artist. In 2013, he had his big break with his performance piece “Last American Indian on Earth.” He created it out of frustration of the gatekeeping he experienced in the museum and gallery process when trying to show paintings.

Gregg Deal, pictured in Colorado Springs, will present “The Punk Pan-Indian Romantic Comedy” performance piece Friday, April 1, at the Old Masonic Hall in Breckenridge. The one-man show is free to attend.
Daniella Zalcman/Courtesy photo

Eventually, Deal moved to Colorado when he got a residency at the Denver Art Museum.

Regardless of medium or location, Deal aims to convey important messages about Indigenous life. For his “Invisible” series, he put his child Sage on a platform that had them reading the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit individuals. Sage, who is nonbinary, was also the model for a large mural Deal painted in Colorado Springs that featured a red handprint on their face to raise awareness on the subject.

“This is an issue that concerns me as a parent,” Deal said. “It ends up coming into my work here and there.”

Deal has also been a critic of Native American mascots in sports, discussing the topic on TV shows like “The Daily Show with John Stewart.” Recently, he did a sculptural work that had wooden chairs stacked with braided strands of hair from him and his family to comment on the poor conditions of Indigenous boarding schools. It was his first sculpture, and he found it hard, exciting and poignant.

If you go

What: “Roots Radical” by Gregg Deal

When: On display through May 8

Where: Old Masonic Hall, 136 S. Main St., Breckenridge

Cost: Free

The activism partly stems from Deal’s roots as a punk music fan. He said the genre helped give him a home when he felt like he didn’t have one. Though now older, he still occasionally goes to concerts, and his children have begun browsing through his records.

For Deal, the music speaks to him in different ways, and he still has an issue when someone tells him that he can’t do something.

“The general disenfranchisement that exists within that music also speaks to the disenfranchisement of other people who might be outside of that, or in my case, being an Indigenous person,” Deal said.

In Breckenridge for his exhibit “Roots Radical,” Deal has a piece making fun of misappropriation of dream catchers as well as paintings that use basket patterns from Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe — of which Deal is a member — and other Great Basin communities.

Gregg Deal, pictured in Boulder, currently has his work on display in Breckenridge. Originally from Utah, Deal is based out of Colorado Springs.
Daniella Zalcman/Courtesy photo

Fans of his work will notice more of his painting series, “The Others.” Deal took old comic book panels that have Native Americans in colonial settings, and he reversed the imagery to show the Native Americans in a position power. Lyrics of punk rock songs, like “I’m so bored with the USA” from The Clash,” in speech bubbles highlight the Indigenous struggle.

He’s branching out into more conceptual and abstract pieces, which he finds exciting, but he also likes how lots of his work is blunt and straightforward.

“I love this series because it is quite serious and has some depth, but it is also consumable on the outside,” Deal said. “You don’t necessarily have to dig in to laugh and appreciate what’s happening in these works.”

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