When Words Won't Come

Oct 2, 2017 | Native Hope

“When I was younger, I believed the world was against me; it never offered me anything meaningful—it often showed me cruelty, which gave me a negative outlook,” shares Dennis Metcalf, artist from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe (Hunkpati Oyate). Dennis’ art is a form of therapy, transporting him to places he longs to be. He adds, “It helps me solidify my position in this universe and reminds me that there is something in my control; the outcome is really up to me. No one else.”

He finds his art has an effect on others in a way that he can’t. He sees that people react to it: it makes them smile, laugh, even cry. Despite their reactions, Dennis struggles to find satisfaction; he longs to converse with people about the meaningful aspects, but those interactions rarely come.  

Finding the joy

Enjoying his gift without constraint is something Dennis hopes to achieve. He likes to work on characters, giving them unique, even gruesome, attributes as it offers him freedom without worrying about the creation of elaborate settings.

Old movies like Aliens, RoboCop, and The Thing inspired Dennis to further his artistic skills. He explains, “Practical effects are something I find believable; they tell the story better. It keeps the narrative more realistic.”

By sneaking those movies from his dad’s movie cabinet when he was just a boy of eight, Dennis developed his passion for creation; one day he hopes he might become a prop designer for movies. “I thought they [props and masks] were cool!” he says as he reflects on his experience.

Beyond the page

Because of the complicated prop and makeup designs these movies presented, Dennis’ sketches became more focused on surrealism, an art form that attempts to resolve contradictions posed by dreams and reality. Through these works, he hopes to inspire conversations with and amongst his viewers and to motivate young artists to pick up a pen.

Native Hope loves Dennis’ message: there is beauty in the unexpected. While many enjoy the sketches of everyday people and places, it is the depictions of the harsh realities that take us to a new level of understanding, which is Dennis’ hope. To read more of Dennis's story click here.

Thank you for speaking to the world, Dennis—we hear you. We must listen if we hope to break stereotypes and engage in conversations that can change perceptions. We invite you to join us and Dennis in our efforts to give a voice to the voiceless and inspire hope for a future filled with possibility.