Mohawk murals

Artist Dave Fadden to speak, exhibit at Saranac Lake gallery

Mohawk artist David Kanietakeron Fadden, seen here describing a “Thanksgiving Address” mural, will speak at the Abstract Adirondack gallery on Aug. 26. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — Mohawk painter David “Kanietakeron” Fadden, of Onchiota, will speak about his work — its influences, symbolism, techniques and messages — at this week’s Abstract Adirondack pop-up art gallery on Thursday, Aug. 26, at 5:30 p.m. in the gardens of the Historic McClellan Cure Cottage on Park Avenue in Saranac Lake.

The gallery will continue a special exhibition of Dave’s works through the remainder of the summer during regular Thursday afternoon hours, 4 to 7:30 p.m.

Fadden is a painter, educator and storyteller carrying on a family heritage of artists and teachers. He speaks of his artistic nurturing by Ray Fadden, his grandfather, and John and Elizabeth Eva Fadden, his parents. Central in his life is the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center in Onchiota, founded by Ray in 1954 and managed since then by the family.

He also speaks of existing in two worlds simultaneously — the “American” in and around Saranac Lake and the “Mohawk,” centered in Akwesasne. Encounters with cultural stereotypes and prejudice led him on a path of portraying Mohawk culture and of communicating commonalities among us. His paintings serve as educational tools to illustrate contemporary issues affecting native peoples and to form bridges between the cultures.

“Our ceremonies offer thanks and appreciation to all the things that give us life. This appreciation for lifegiving entities is expressed through ancient prayer, songs and dances. In my own way, I try to express this feeling through my art,” he wrote on his state museum webpage.

Mohawk Artist David Kanietakeron Fadden’s “Mosaic” style is exemplified in this detail from “Radiance,” his painting of a female Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) dancer. (Photo provided)

He saw in old photos and paintings of Native Americans — those didn’t jive with what he saw around him within his close-knit family and the Akwesasne community. He decided to show that there was much more. Fadden’s work is a spectrum of emotion, mannerisms, facial expressions and shadows created with a serious eye on history, traditions and techniques of painting.

“Most native imagery reflects a common stereotype of the fierce and stoic Indian … I try to dispel this false portrayal by painting native people as people who like to laugh and show other emotions,” wrote Fadden.

He addresses systemic racism with paintings, such as one based on photos of students at the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania and forced assimilation policies. His “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” brings the emotions and expressions he saw in the group and individual portraits to the faces of children arranged in countless rows.

His search for a way to portray the emotion of a scream led to his “Mosaic” series. Fadden envisioned “a painting you could hear exploding outward like a wave of sound.” Initially motivated by a book he illustrated, David combines influences from beadwork, tiling and pointillism in paintings where intricate designs adorn splotches of color, giving the appearance of tiles.

“These works take three to four months of working two to three hours every day,” he explained.

Mohawk Artist David Kanietakeron Fadden’s painting “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” reflects the ordeals of forced assimilation on Native American children. (Photo provided)

Running through Sept. 16, Abstract Adirondack is a weekly pop-up art gallery in Saranac Lake, the home of painter/printmaker Deborah Geurtze and theatrical designer Michael Friedman. On display are works by established and emerging artists: paintings and prints by Geurtze, sculptures by Sarah May of Walden and Joshua Ruder, abstract constructions and paintings by Tim Fortune of Saranac Lake, paintings by Peter Bird of Saranac Lake, assemblage by William Evans and paintings and prints by George Dirolf. More information on the gallery is available at abstract-adk.com. David Fadden’s work can be seen on the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center website at 6nicc.com.


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