David P. Bradley has played a significant role not only in the advancement of Indian art, but also in the struggle for Native American rights.
Bradley was born in Eureka, California on March 8, 1954, yet spent most of his childhood in Minneapolis and on the White Earth Ojibwe Reservation in Chippewa, Minnesota. He spent two years at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota before taking a break from school and joining the Peace Corps. He lived for the better part of two years in Guatemala with Mayan Indians and learned a new life outlook, “an experience with essentials,” that allowed him to better understand his heritage and “changed him forever.” After returning from the Peace Corps, he was drawn to the Southwest and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where he graduated first in his class with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. He also studied at the University of Arizona and the College of Santa Fe. He recently returned to the Institute of American Indian Arts as a guest artist and instructor.
Bradley has called his life and his art a symbolic vision quest. His work often expresses his philosophical and political ideas. Through his art he continues to campaign against American Indian stereotypes and the exploitation of Native art. He helped lead a legal campaign against fraudulent artists claiming to be of First Nations origin. He tries to encourage young Indian artists to stay away from the mass commercialized production of Native American artifacts. As a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Bradley strongly believes that Indians need to reclaim their own identity and work politically to assure they will survive as a distinct culture. He fights for this both politically and artistically.
Bradley has received numerous awards and fellowships, including recognition as the only artist to win the top awards in both the Fine Art categories of painting and sculpture at the Santa Fe Indian Market. He was also awarded the Southwestern Association of Indian Art Fellowship in 1980 and the Minnesota Chippewa Art Award for Merit in Art in 1979, among several others.
He has also been featured in several publications, including the New York Times and Who’s Who in American Art in 1982, Artspace Magazine in 1987 and many others, as well as television and radio shows.
Bradley has exhibited his work throughout the nation, including the Plains Indian Museum in Wyoming, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Plains Art Museum in Fargo, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Armory for the Arts in Santa Fe, the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the American Indian Art Invitational in Lima, Peru, and many others. His work is in the permanent collections of various museums throughout the United States, especially in the southwest.