Daniel McCoy Jr. (Muscogee Creek/Citizen Band Potawatomi) has devoted much of his painting and drawing career to psychedelic and often humorous visions that reference pop culture and make use of vivid recurring characters. In this new exhibition of drawings on paper and oil and enamel paintings, he turns his attention to the landscapes of northern New Mexico that have defined his adult life.
The son of an Irish biker and an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe, McCoy grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. It’s taken him 30 years to appreciate more pastoral subject matter, he says. But when McCoy and his family moved to a village outside Española, he found himself called to capture the sweeping vistas outside his front door.
“I can see Black Mesa from my porch, and the Jemez Mountains,” he marvels. McCoy depicts the natural environment of New Mexico in his signature cartoon-influenced style, jazzing up his more muted palette with vibrating, repetitive lines. He keeps in mind a slew of influences, including 1960s science-fiction book cover artists and the otherworldly quality of the moonlit high desert.
“The goal is to retain a bit of cartooning while working from life study,” he explains. “There’s a bit of comics, a bit of sci-fi, some figurative stuff I’m sneaking in. By not painting about people doing stuff, there’s a whole new open door. A newfound freedom. And you’ve got to capture it now, because nature changes fast.”
McCoy was the youngest student in his freshman class at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he earned a BFA in Studio Arts and Museum Studies. Recent exhibitions include Aurora and Dusk Approaching Solstice, a 2021 solo show at David Richard Gallery in New York City, and Indigenous Futurisms at IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in 2020.