About the Artist

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Merging Native Culture and Art
by Claire Tapia

He is an artist, printmaker and storyteller.  For more than 30 years, Daniel Stolpe has created gripping narratives that draw from Native American spirituality and his own connection to the natural world. 

“I decided to go into art because I had a desire to express myself in the most personal and intimate way that I could,” Stolpe said.

His work is thoughtful, intense and challenges many traditional western ideas. Stolpe’s artwork is included in collections across the globe, from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. to the Biblioteca de Montserrat in Montserrat, Spain. Special Collections at UCSC’s McHenry Library houses one of almost 20 archives of Stolpe’s paintings, woodcuts and lithographs. 

The Daniel Stolpe Archive at UCSC Special Collections was established formally in the spring of 2000, but the Library began collecting Stolpe’s work shortly after the artist moved to Santa Cruz in 1974.  The collection grew with donations from private collectors. 

“The collection will continue to grow,” said Rita Bottoms, Head Curator of the UCSC Special Collections. “It’s incredibly intense work by an amazing artist and printmaker.” 

From an Early Age

The development of Stolpe’s artistic vision began at a young age.  His father was involved with the Woodcraft Rangers, a youth group of about 3,000 kids in the Los Angeles area.  Stolpe was a member of the group from the age of eight until he was 14, an experience that taught Stolpe the value of working with his hands and peaked his interest in Native American culture. 

“Everything was patterned after a tribal structure,” Stolpe said. “There was an emphasis on handy crafts and doing things with nature.  We learned about Indian life and lore and we had Indian guys teach us how to make Indian costumes and about Indian dance and drums.  That’s what got me interested.”

Stolpe realized the connection between the Native American value system and his own. He began drawing and was recognized for his artistic talent throughout his high school and college years.

While attending the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, Stolpe met Don LaViere Turner, an art professor who had a printmaking studio.  Stolpe and Turner became close and eventually, Stolpe dropped out of college to work as an apprentice for Turner.  Turner’s mentorship proved to be influential in Stolpe’s career. 

“Stolpe has worked with some very fine artists,” said Bottoms, “and his respect for them shows in his work, which reflects both his mentors’ and his own artistic statement.”

Life on the Reservation

In 1972, Stolpe’s interest in Native American culture brought him to the Swinomish Indian reservation in Washington. He was invited to become a member of the tribe and to attend sacred spiritual ceremonies.  Stolpe lived on the reservation for two years, an experience that he described as “transforming.” 

His time with the Swinomish tribe cemented his connection to the Native American value system. In contrast to much of Western culture, this system places importance on a spiritual connection to the natural world and shuns materialism, Stolpe said.

“They look at things in terms of the Seventh generation, which asks how their decision will affect generations to come, “ said Stolpe. “With the difficulties that the industrial world is in, with pollution, overproduction, and people’s value systems being based on material realities, the only indication we have that we’re in a bad spot is when nature rebels. When the water and air get polluted and things become toxic, nature is reflecting that abuse.”

Stolpe is currently working on a book of Maidu Indian stories of creation with William Shipley, a retired UCSC linguistics professor. The book will contain Maidu stories of creation written in the Maidu language along with the English translation.

Stolpe will do the illustrations for the book entitled, “The Maidu Indian Myths & Stories — Hancibyjim.” This will be the first of four volumes of Maidu Creation stories, which tell the story of how the earthmaker and the coyote put the world together, Stolpe said. 

“The coyote is the archetype that continues to show up in my work,” Stolpe said. “It represents movement and change and bringing things into being.”

In the Maidu stories of creation, the coyote acts as an instigator who keeps things from becoming stagnant.

“The first sector in the Maidu Creation stories is the creation,” Stolpe said. “The second is the adversaries, where the coyote and earthmaker argue because the earthmaker wants to make paradise but the coyote says that would be boring.  The third chapter is love and death, where the coyote creates love and death, which makes the world interesting.  The fourth chapter is coyote- the spoiler, which has to do with everything being corrupt and upset, “ Stolpe added. 

According to Stolpe, the world is constantly cycling between chaos and balance and it’s the coyote that keeps things changing.

"Reprinted with permission from the Mid-County Post for one-time use.  All rights reserved."

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