The young Apache couple who Douglas Miles depicts in his Mission District mural look straight ahead, their eyes open, their mouths closed. There’s no drama and no great pageantry. The Apache man’s spear and dress, and the mountains in the background, hint at the couple’s ethnic origins and the dignity that Miles wanted to convey at the corner of 16th and Shotwell streets.
“It’s a portrait of an Apache woman and an Apache man behind the woman in full support of the woman,” Miles tells SF Weekly in a phone interview from the San Carlos Apache Nation reservation in Arizona, a community of about 12,000 people that’s about two hours east of Phoenix. “It’s always important to have my voice, the indigenous voice, that seems to be missing from so many industries and genres. You rarely see indigenous people in film, you’re just now seeing them in television, on Netflix. You rarely hear about them in media — and, of course, in the street-art world, they’re almost nonexistent.”
Miles spray-painted Apache Couple in February, when he was an artist-in-residence at the de Young Museum. With the help of sponsors, he also did three other murals during his San Francisco stay, including one in the Luggage Store Gallery’s Tenderloin National Forest on Ellis Street. Miles centers his work, which consists of paintings, murals, and skateboards — he’s the founder of Apache Skateboards, and a former skateboarder himself — around proud Native American figures, frequently festooning the backgrounds with calligraphic writing. In 2016, Miles wrote the introduction to the best-selling graphic work, Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars, by Ethan Hawke and Greg…
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