Granger graffiti artist draws from his heritage to create something new


Society doesn’t see graffiti as a traditional art form, and Granger resident Trevor Braden says he doesn’t really practice traditional Native American ways.

But his chosen medium and his heritage combine in powerful works of art.

Braden, 37, is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and has Umatilla and Yakama family members on both sides. He grew up attending the longhouse and graduated from Toppenish High School.

“I didn’t really grow up traditional, but I would attend longhouse all the time. It’s hard to explain, but it’s one of those things, it’s definitely something I’ve always enjoyed,” Braden said.

Growing up in Toppenish on the Yakama Reservation, Braden took an early interest in art, he said. He gives a lot of credit to his older sister and cousins for sparking his creativity.

“The reason I was so into it when I was younger, as poor little kids did back then, art was something to keep us entertained,” Braden said. “Our cousins would be over at the house all the time and we’d all be drawing and doing different random arts.”

In elementary school, Braden was also influenced by those around him, noting his classmates shared art they brought to school.

“Everybody had an uncle or a brother or somebody who did some type of graffiti or some type of art that I took a lot of influence from,” he said. “Lowrider style art was super popular when I was a kid. I was amazed by it all.”

Braden references 1990s graffiti and lowrider art in his style but also acknowledges the art classes he took in school. His interest in art flourished during those formative years. Though he practiced with spray cans on sheets of plywood behind his house along the fence, Braden appreciates fine arts, landscapes and portraits.

“I’ve always felt it’s really important is to learn as much as I can and not just about art history. I like to learn different tools and ways to create art,” he said.

That includes learning from older artists.

“We would be around the older Native artists back then that would come over and paint all the fireworks stands and stuff,” he said. “I grew up around that and that’s where I would say a lot of my first experiences spray painting art started.

“It’s a part of my style and culture. It’s important to represent that. I wouldn’t say I have a super traditional style, or a Native American style, but I do represent it in my own way,” Braden said, noting he spray paints about five or six firework stands every year.

Those firework stand graffiti murals led him to some of his most recognized and culturally aware pieces of art to date, Missing or Murdered Indigenous People murals on walls at Yakamart in Toppenish that he created with his cousin, Garrett Mesplie.

“We had to do some research to figure out how we were going to approach it,” Braden said. “We wanted to make sure that we were representing MMIP in the best possible way, and as a strong representation of the epidemic, our Native regalia and culture.

“I am really fortunate to have found a community you know, that appreciates what I do. And it’s in our Native American people.”

Braden says that there’s a preconceived negativity about graffiti art and he hates that. Like the messages in his MMIP murals, he’s raising awareness.

“I let my art do the talking,” Braden said.

And his art is talking, loudly, on clothing, accessories, shoes and even vehicles and trailers.

Always looking to expand, Braden picked up an airbrush five years ago, seeking to expand his audience.

“I’ve always wanted to put my art on clothing,” he said. “I don’t want my art locked up somewhere on a canvas or in a storage box. Learning to airbrush leads to me creating on more mediums. It’s a maturity in my craft.”

Learning motivates Braden’s art and keeps art fun for him.

“I want to see how far I can take this, and I don’t think I have an end goal. I like to share my stuff but I don’t care if it gets likes or who likes it. It’s about learning, progressing, creating a recognized style all my own,” Braden said.

“Just keep pushing forward.”

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