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Item Name: Drawing
Title: The Time Traveler
Maker: Shaun Beyale
Year: 2015
Country: Navajo Nation
Materials: ink, grey comic marker, and white jellyroll pen on paper
Measurements: 8.5” x 11”
ID Number: ART 88
Legal Status: ART RENTAL

Extended Label Info: Many of Navajo artist Shaun Beyale’s superhero comic-style illustrations feature strong Indigenous superheroines in post-apocalyptic scenes and scenarios. In The Time Traveler, a figure clad in a dark catsuit, sunglasses, and boots stands determinedly, feet firmly planted on the surface of a desolate desert landscape under a big, bright moon. Her outfit is accented with Navajo jewelry - she wears big earrings, a necklace, a studded belt and wrist gauntlets with silver and turquoise accents. In the background, through a portal, we see a daytime scene of a futuristic cityscape of tall towers and flying cars, perhaps of the time and place from which this figure emerged. Beyale’s fascination with post-apocalyptic and dystopian narratives is borne of lived experience. He was born and raised in Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation Reservation, in a home with no running water or electricity. Reading comic books and drawing by kerosene lamps were his main forms of entertainment. He compares the high-desert landscape where rusted cars baked in the hot sun and the slight haze of smog from The Four Corners Generating Station hung in the air to that of his favourite childhood film, The Road Warrior. He is drawn to the imagery and lyrics of heavy metal music. He sees parallels between the Indigenous people have lived through the apocalypse of colonization. “We survived, have struggled and have adapted to this new way of life,” Beyale writes in an artist statement. “We adapt and move on but never forget our past.” Beyale’s work expresses the duality of living in two cultures. This is evident in his portrayal of Indigenous women as superheroines. Navajo society is traditionally matrilineal; women are the core of social and economic control in the community. While Beyale cites mainstream superhero comics, heavy metal album art, and post-apocalyptic sci-fi films as important influences in his work, his depictions of women seem to emerge from a cultural tradition that respects the strength, intelligence, and capability of women.