John Hitchcock’s artwork is deeply informed by his personal biography and family history. He grew up in western Oklahoma on Comanche tribal lands that are located next to Fort Sill, a still-active military training base. Fort Sill was originally established in 1869 to wage battles against American Indians, who, seeing their way of life threatened by the onslaught of western-moving settlers, launched raids against the ongoing encroachment. Hitchcock’s mother is of Comanche and Kiowa ancestry, a descendant of the indigenous Plains tribes affected by the federal government’s systematic policy of forced removal and relocation. The artist’s parents met when his father served at Fort Sill during the Korean War; the couple eventually settled in the proximally-located tribal territory. Raised in this area, Hitchcock was exposed to the frequent Vietnam War-era training activities at the base, which—in addition to his ancestral heritage of cultural genocide—sensitized him to an American culture of violence and military action.
In his Chemically Wasted triptych, Hitchcock depicts the stylized skulls of a buffalo, horse, and deer—reoccurring and fantastical animal heads that represent departed family members, and are linked to American Indian folklore passed down by his grandmother. The circular splashes of blue in the background conjure associations of shooting targets—violent imagery that is symbolically tied to the artist’s childhood experiences and complex familial heritage. In reflecting on communities and traditions disrupted by war and cultural genocide, Hitchcock mobilizes the print medium to critique social and political systems and explore relationships of community, land, and culture.