Duke Wassaja Sine- artist of Yavapai-Apache Nation

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Yavapai-Apache artist Duke Sine carrying on artistic traditions

By Don Decker, YAN News 8/27/17

Sine visits with Chairwoman Winiecki and discuss the art pieces.

Duke Sine is in a class of his own and he doesn’t try to stick with trends that are often replicated by other American Indian artists. Sine carves his own trail and avoids clichés in his art.  Some Indian artists will observe what sells the most and sometimes copy those styles. Very much like when American Indian artist Fritz Scholder was painting, several American Indian artists attempted to paint like Scholder.

Sine is an exception to the rule. He paints with his soul, his mind and what interests him the most: His Apache culture which was ingrained by his late father, well-noted Yavapai-Apache artist David Sine. The elder Sine was a legend and young Sine has remained steadfast in carrying on the traditions of his father whose art depicts Apache culture.

Mountain Spirit night dance next to the Mountains of the Gods in Mescalero, New Mexico.

Sine utilizes the black and white combination to create line drawings and shapes that uses all the black and white scales and various shades of grey blending back into the black or white mass. Some of his artwork is abstract while maintaining recognizable motifs of Apache designs. Then, some of his art is symmetrical with an equal balance of designs that complement each other. What happens on one side of the art piece happens on the other side. Then, there is representational art which tells a story about the early beginnings of the Apache world on a war shield that has the two male figures at the top of the painting who were brought into this world by the Changing Woman (Izahn’nah’leheh).

A pen and ink with Apache symbols of the hummingbird, messenger of good-will, and butterflies of transformation and the sacred headdress of the mountain spirit.

Then there are narrative pieces that tell a story about the Apache world, the spirit world. In one of those black and white line paintings, Sine speaks of an actual incident in Mescalero, New Mexico while showing the piece. It is a scene that takes place around a huge bonfire and the mountain spirits are very animated and it is an action painting. One can almost hear the drums and songs and the huge fire in the middle crackling with orange sparks as the mountain spirits dance in rhythm. The full moon hangs over the Mountain of the Gods night skyline and a meteorite zips downward to the earth. One can see the sillouettes of the sacred mountains that sits on the north side of Mescalero community. This is a night painting.

Sine honors his late father. “He taught me the basics of art, the value of nature and respect for the Apache heritage and traditions,” he states. “Throughout my life I’ve tried to interpret those themes in my own art”.

The abstractness of the Apache world through the eyes of Sine.

He drives a pickup truck this day from northern New Mexico where he now resides with his family and children and stops at the Yavapai-Apache Nation administrative center where some of the council members have given him some of their time to see his work. He sets up a temporary office divider panel boards and hangs his artwork for easy viewing and access.

Sine attended the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico from 1969 to 1973 and took classes from artists such as Alan Houser, world famous Apache stone sculpture artist.

“I was taught by the masters of traditions and contemporary Indian art as well as learning about the different mediums possible”, says Sine about his art experiences in Santa Fe.

Today, he visits with Chairwoman Jane Russell-Winiecki of the Yavapai-Apache Nation who is eager to hear more about the meaning of some of the paintings. Sine shows enthusiasm about his work and explains in detail what some of the drawings and watercolors mean. One can recognize the highly stylized watercolor of the kneeling Changing Woman who is surrounded by butterflies, dragonflies and  2 hummingbirds that are integrated into the headdress of a mountain spirit mask. It is the dazzling pastel colors of kinetic moving arrows toward the Changing Woman that makes this piece unique. It is one of the pieces “that grows on one” if you look at it long enough.

Sacred shield of Monster Slayer and Born for the Water twin brothers. The serpents are the sentinels to the entrance way to the holy world with 4 streaks of lightning pointing to the 4 cardinal directions of the Nih’Gozhan..Mother earth.

“I’d like to use fine lines and details for my work with sweeping bright background colors that set the mood of each piece,” he states.

After Sine visits with the council, he begins repacking his wall display units and carefully wraps each one. He seems reassured that he sold one or two pieces. Sine says he is on his way to “Hopi” to visit family and friends before returning to New Mexico some 8 hours away from Camp Verde.






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