Duluth artist stars in PBS documentary about his life, work
"Jonathan Thunder: Good Mythology” was filmed over a year, and it follows the art and inspiration of the Duluth artist.
DULUTH — Jonathan Thunder was on the fence when a filmmaker asked to feature the Anishinaabe visual artist in a PBS documentary.
“It seemed a little intimidating,” Thunder recalled.
After looking into director Sergio Rapu’s work , Thunder gave the green light.
“Being a film nerd myself and having made some films, I knew it would be amazing to watch this guy work, even if I was the subject matter.”
“Jonathan Thunder: Good Mythology” was released in March on PBS. It’s part of the American Masters series “In the Making,” which follows artists as they become masters of their disciplines.
Other productions feature opera singer J’Nai Bridges, country artist Rissi Palmer, and actress Lily Gladstone.
Thunder is a Red Lake Band of Ojibwe member, as well as a painter, animator and filmmaker.
His work has been featured at the Muskegon (Michigan) Museum of Art; The Watermark Art Center in Bemidji; the Tweed Museum of Art; and the Duluth Art Institute, among others.
In “Good Mythology,” Thunder shares about growing up as “an urban native” in the Twin Cities, and how his move to northern Minnesota introduced him to the richness of his heritage.
Filmed over the course of a year, Thunder installs his digital mural Manifest’o at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He paints, and he reads a book to his wife and her pregnant tummy.
He walks the snowy streets of downtown Duluth, past the American Indian Community Housing Organization, and an alley at Superior Street and First Avenue West.
“This is a little spray-paint mess that I made a few years back,” he said, looking up at the dreamy image of floating figures in horned space suits on an exterior alley wall.
And he discusses Ojibwe mythology, “white people’s mythology” and portrayals of well-known characters like Bugs Bunny and Paul Bunyan in his work.
Watching “Good Mythology” and the aftermath has been a surreal experience that he doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s such an honor to even be considered for this, let alone, have it happen,” he said.
Next up is a mural project for a Duluth whiskey bar, three murals for buildings downtown, artwork design for a documentary, and: “In the middle of that, I have a 1-year-old.”
For more information, go to jonthunder.com.
Watch “Jonathan Thunder: Good Mythology” at pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/jonathan-thunder-good-mythology/24267.
“American Masters: In the Making” is available to view on YouTube , pbs.org/americanmasters , and the PBS App.