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Louis De Mayo is a stylized painter of contemporary Indian figures. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1926 and has been living in Phoenix, Arizona, since 1973. When a gallery owner suggested that De Mayo tell people he is Indian to facilitate sales, De Mayo asked whether "if I wanted to paint a horse, would I have to say I was part horse?" His friend, Carl Gorman who is Navajo told him, "Louis, if people ask what tribe you're from, tell them you're Awoppaho."
A first generation Italian-American, De Mayo was raised in the neighborhood that produced Mario Lanza and Frankie Avalon. "If you spit," he claims, "you would hit a singer." After serving in the Marines during World War II, he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under the G.I. Bill, then was employed in a series of commercial art jobs. He relocated to Phoenix as Art Director for Arizona Highways, a job he soon quit to establish himself as a full-time artist.
"I really have only one regret about leaving Philadelphia, and that is that I didn't leave it sooner. I choose Indians to paint because of their dramatic quality and their manner of dress," he states. "I had a strong emotional attraction to the Yaqui and their black garb. Maybe it's because I grew up seeing women in black. My people are all dark skinned. I don't want to make too much of a racial issue in my work, but it certainly could stem from such roots. I look at life as if it were a big slow-moving steamroller. It gives you a helluva lot of time to get out of the way if you fall down, but if you just want to lie there, it is going to roll right over you."
De Mayo has lived in the Southwestern United States for many years absorbing the rich spiritual heritage of the Native American cultures that inhabit the deserts, mesas and mountains. Arizona was the catalyst De Mayo used to express himself and the freedom he has always associated with art. He was able to capture the splendor and grandeur of Arizona where he was exposed to a magical beauty and wealth of imagery. From this emerged his distinctive style and vision of the world.
A trailblazer in the realm of contemporary southwest art, De Mayo has been instrumental in pushing the envelope and abolishing the stereotypes of what the viewing public considers Southwestern. He utilizes dramatic color, the abstract, numbers and a bit of whimsy to enhance his images and message together with a bold, daring and controlled simplicity that fill his canvases. De Mayo is best known for his interpretation of the Native American spirit, however, in recent years, he has found a renewed passion in contemporary and realistic style.