Fermin Salas

Chiricahua Apache


The Bird Man

(acrylic paint, pastels, colored pencil, watercolor, and chalk on paper; 1993)

Untouchable Artifacts · The Bird Man Painting

“Waiting for my Birdman of Alcatraz dream:

I was a park ranger on Alcatraz Island for three years. Some of the other park rangers told me how they would spend the night sleeping in a famous criminal inmate’s prison cell. They claimed to have had wild dreams about the inmate.

So, one cold November night I had to spend the night alone on the island waiting for a barge with supplies. It was overtime and I needed the money, so I decided to find the cell of the infamous former inmate: the Birdman of Alcatraz. I found the cell belonging to the Birdman, Robert Stroud, and slept on the cold floor.

I slept and waited for the Birdman dreams to begin.

Nothing happened, no crazy dreams.

In the painting, I can see myself sleeping on the cold floor waiting for the Birdman in my nondream.”

—Fermin Salas

Born November 30th, 1957, Fermin Salas spent much of his early life in Arizona and Stockton, California. Salas attended the University of New Mexico followed by Cal State Sacramento after which he became one the of the first Native American park rangers at Yosemite National Park. Salas has a degree in Art with a focus in Printmaking and minor is History and was a traditional Native American Powwow dancer for many years.

Featured in The Herd Museum, Crocker Art Museum, and galleries across the Southwest, Salas’ work explores the fallacy of mysticism, Native American tropes, and the impact of Spanish colonialism on indiegnous experience using dark humor, bold imagery, and contemporary abstraction.

Curator's Note

Fermin Salas is co-curator Kat Salas’ father!

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