Blankets and photography combine for Douglas Miles’ exhibition, ‘Blessing’

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Douglas Miles, an artist and filmmaker, printed his photos on fleece blankets to create unique art, which is now being showcased in the “Blessing” exhibition at the Arizona Capitol Museum.

“Native Americans have always lived out in rural areas,” Miles says. “Blankets have allowed Native Americans to survive… Blankets represent physically and spiritually a blessing.”

Miles says he got the idea from hanging out at a swap meet. He saw blankets with images of Tupac, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and Bob Marley printed on them, but he wasn’t impressed. Instead, it gave him the idea that his own art would look good on a blanket.

Photos of his family are a common theme in Miles’ work. His pieces also highlight details of the Native American community.

Miles started creating art when his son bought a plain skateboard and he decided to add Native American designs to it. It led to Miles working with the Apache Skateboard Team.

Tray Polk, a skateboarder on the team and a friend of Miles, says his art has helped him understand and be proud of where he came from. He says it made him feel empowered after knowing that his people have been pushed aside for hundreds of years.

“All good art comes from not just the creative drive of the human spirit, but the creative cry of the human spirit,” Miles says. “When we get the help we need, we get the strength we need, we go on to build a better community and society ourselves.”

For more information about the Arizona Capitol Museum and when you can visit the exhibition, go here.

TED SIMONS: BLANKETS HAVE BEEN AN INTEGRAL PART OF AMERICAN INDIAN CULTURE FOR CENTURIES. BLANKETS ARE PRESENTED WHEN A CHILD IS BORN, AS A WEDDING GIFT AND EVEN A DEATH. ARTIST DOUGLAS MILES OF THE SAN CARLOS APACHE COMMUNITY AND COMBINES HIS LOVE FOR BLANKETS WITH PHOTOGRAPHY IN A MOVING EXHIBITION. PRODUCER SHANA FISCHER INTRODUCES US TO THE BLESSING.

SHANA FISCHER: DOUGLAS MILES TAKES HIS CAMERA WITH HIM EVERYWHERE.

DOUGLAS MILES: AND I TAKE PICTURES ALL THE TIME, I TAKE PHOTOS EVERYWHERE I GO.

SHANA FISCHER: THE PHOTOS HE TAKES EVERYDAY NOW FORM THE FOUNDATION OF HIS EXHIBITION THE BLESSING. THE PHOTOS ARE PRINTED ON FLEECE BLANKETS.

DOUGLAS MILES: THE FLEECE BLANKETS I GOT THE IDEA FROM THE SWAP MEET LOOKING AT BLANKETS WITH TU-PAC OR MARILYN MONROE OR ELVIS OR BOB MARLEY AND I REMEMBER LOOKING AT THEM AND I WAS LIKE I DON’T KNOW IF I WOULD EVER BUY ONE, BUT I THINK MY OWN ART ON A BLANKET WOULD LOOK REALLY COOL.

SHANA FISCHER: MILES ALSO BEGAN TO THINK ABOUT HIS OWN CULTURE AND HIS OWN HISTORY AS A NATIVE AMERICAN PERSON AND WHY BLANKETS ARE SO SACRED TO HIS COMMUNITY.

DOUGLAS MILES: THE PRACTICALITY OF IT FIRST. NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED OUT IN RURAL AREAS AND I THINK BLANKETS ALLOW NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO SURVIVE, TO MAKE IT THROUGH WINTER AS I THOUGHT ABOUT IT A BLANKET REALLY REPRESENTS PHYSICALLY AND SPIRITUALLY A BLESSING.

SHANA FISCHER: THE IMAGES ON THE BLANKETS ARE STARK. THE FACE OF HIS DAUGHTER, HIS SON'S WEDDING, HIS SISTERS AND THEIR GRANDCHILDREN, IT'S IN THEIR FACES MILES FINDS A CONNECTION TO HIS PAST AND A COMPASS POINTED TOWARDS HIS FUTURE.

DOUGLAS MILES: YEAH, IT WAS ABOUT TO RAIN BUT I EDITED SO IT'S NOT DARK.

SHANA FISCHER: TRAY POLK HAS KNOWN MILES SINCE HE WAS A LITTLE BOY. HE’S FRIENDS WITH MILES’ SON AND GREW UP ON THE SAN CARLOS APACHE INDIAN COMMUNITY, A PLACE HE SAYS HOPE IS IN SHORT SUPPLY.

TRAY POLK: THERE ARE DIFFERENT AREAS OF SAN CARLOS WHERE IT'S A LOT DIFFERENT BUT WHERE I GREW UP AT IT WAS PRETTY HARD YOU KNOW YOU SEE A BUNCH OF PEOPLE JUST STRUGGLING ALL THE TIME.

SHANA FISCHER: HE SAYS MILES PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE HAD A PROFOUND EFFECT ON HIM.

TRAY POLK: MADE ME FEEL LIKE MORE PRIDE, LOOK INTO MY HISTORY MORE, MADE ME UNDERSTAND AND BE PROUD OF WHERE I CAME FROM AND BEING IN THE OUTSIDE WORLD WHERE YOU KNOW MANY HUNDREDS OF YEARS WE HAVE BEEN PUSHED ASIDE WHERE IT MAKES IT FEEL EMPOWERED.

SHANA FISCHER: WHILE POLK GREW UP IN A NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITY, MILES GREW UP IN PHOENIX. HE HAD A LARGE FAMILY AND WAS A CURIOUS KID WHO LOVED ART ALWAYS SWIPING HIS SIBLINGS RECORDS AND BOOKS BECAUSE TO HIM THEY WERE ART. HE BEGAN HIS FORMAL ART CAREER THANKS TO HIS SON.

DOUGLAS MILES: ONE DAY HE NEEDED A SKATEBOARD AND DIDN'T HAVE MONEY FOR THE NAME BRAND ONE BUT COULD AFFORD THE BLANK ONE AND SAID SON I'M GOING TO PAINT YOU THIS BOARD.

SHANA FISCHER: HE MERGED THE SKATEBOARD WORLD WITH NATIVE AMERICAN ART AND BEGAN THE APACHE SKATEBOARDS 15 YEARS AGO. HE ALSO STARTED A PROFESSIONAL SKATEBOARD TEAM. POLK RIDES FOR THE TEAM SEEN IN THE PHOTO TAKEN IN MONUMENT VALLEY AND WHILE THE BLESSING IS NOT MILES’ FIRST EXHIBITION IT'S THE FIRST TIME HIS ART HAD BEEN DISPLAYED IN THE ARIZONA CAPITOL MUSEUM, A SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE THAT IS NOT LOST ON HIM AS A DESCENDENT OF THE FIRST PEOPLE TO CALL ARIZONA HOME.

DOUGLAS MILES: I THINK THE UNIFYING FACTOR OF ALL GOOD ART IS THAT ALL GOOD ART COMES FROM NOT JUST THE CREATIVE DRIVE OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT BUT THE CREATIVE CRY OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT. TO BE HEARD, TO BE SEEN, TO BE FELT, TO BE THOUGHT WELL OF OR TO BE HELD OR TO BUILD AND ONCE WE GET THE HELP WE NEED WE GET THE STRENGTH WE NEED WE GO ON TO BUILD A BETTER SOCIETY AND COMMUNITY OURSELVES.

TED SIMONS: AND THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

SCREEN UNDERWRITER: ARIZONA HORIZON IS MADE POSSIBLE FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION THANK YOU. SUPPORT FOR ARIZONA PBS COMES FROM VIEWERS LIKE YOU AND FROM MORE THAN INVESTMENTS SERVING INVESTORS SINCE 190 AND SUPPORTS THE PROGRAMMING ON ARIZONA PBS.

Douglas Miles: Artist and Filmmaker
Tray Polk: Skateboarder, Apache Skateboard Team

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