Through animals, Buffalohead addresses uniquely human issues

Julie Buffalohead, All Are Welcome, 2022
oil on canvas, overall: 60 x 124 inches
photo by Rik Sferra

As with all of Julie Buffalohead’s art, animals figure heavily into works in her new show at San Francisco’s Jessica Silverman gallery, writes Hyperallergic’s Emily Wilson, and through humor they help address very human concerns. The painting All Are Welcome Here (2022), which the artist began following the police murder of George Floyd, arose after she noticed a spate of yard signs bearing the work’s eventual title popping up around her St. Paul neighborhood. She felt a disconnect between the welcoming message and the kind of reception she, as a citizen of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, felt growing up in a white community nearby.

As Wilson reports:

“We really want to say we support Black Lives Matters,” Buffalohead asserted. “But we don’t always want to make the sacrifices or do the things that need to be done in order for people of a different race and culture to feel like we’re on the same standing.” 

The coyote offering its own tail in “All Are Welcome Here” represents her as a child trying desperately to fit in and sacrificing herself to gain acceptance. 

“It wasn’t till I was much older that I realized what a waste that is, and maybe the important thing is to embrace your own identity rather than worry about trying to be accepted,” she noted. “I need a way into these feelings, and the entrance tends to be, ‘I’m going to make this about these cute animals, but they’re really not cute,’ and the viewer has to open up to a place of discovery.”

Read “For Julie Buffalohead, Animals Express What Words Cannot.”

Julie Buffalohead: Noble Coyotes is on view at Jessica Silverman through December 23.