New Yorkers not aware of Peter B. Jones should really change that… asap.

Among Iroquois and other Native American cultures, Jones is a household name. To the rest of us, his work remains largely unknown.

Raised on a reservation in Onondaga, NY, the artist came of age in the late 1960s and used pop art as a primary vehicle of expression.

One of Jones’ best-known pieces is titled Banana (1968)a sculpture made of ceramic, which resides today in the Native American Art Museum in Battery Park. Featuring the image of a Native American face on the spot where the fruit’s logo normally goes, the work came about at the tail-end of Cowboys-and-Indians traveling shows, common during the first half of the 20th century, when natives still graced cereal boxes, tobacco products, and other assorted American kitsch.

Jones’ Banana, like that of his pop art contemporaries, is both whimsical and serious. Beyond a simple critique of consumerism, it seems to point to an ancient tradition in native culture of making idols out of ceramic, wood, and stone. In that way, Jones sees beyond the exploitation of advertising and pays homage to his fellow tribesmen, whose image is always sacred, regardless its use.

Through the years, the artist has continued to toe the line between pop art and traditional craftsmanship. His interest in product is closely tied to his interest in vessels of utility, like cups and mugs. Jones treats them all with a deep humanity, a sense of the traditional, and a desire to live in the present.

He continues to teach locally and travel with his art, and if you get the chance to hear him speak, or do a workshop, don’t miss it.

Now you know. (Brian Chidester)

PBJ-triptych

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA