Art has always played a powerful and integral role in traditional Native culture, witnessed in the ancestral paintings and carvings we find on the rocks and walls of sacred spaces and places, inside caves, canyon walls, ceremonial lodges, and mountainsides. Embellished relics from both everyday and ceremonial use have been found scattered in and around long-abandoned community sites.
Today many of those traditions continue to pass from generation to generation. Children are introduced to the arts at early ages, taught that color and imagery carry symbolic meanings, and that through the arts stories can be told.
Media and styles vary from tribe to tribe. Basketry, beadworking, ceramics, silversmithing, weaving and woodcarving are traditional crafts, often integrated into the making of weaponry, musical instruments, and ceremonial attire and props.
The Native artists of Journeys in Spirit 2021 come from varied backgrounds and cultures. Many live within and close outside their tribal communities. Some work in traditional styles, while others explore the more modern media of painting and photography. As varied as their art is, they share common ground: they are Native artists, and there are stories to be told.
Journeys in Spirit 2021: Traditional and Contemporary Native Art Exhibition is curated by renowned Hopi artist Filmer Kewanyama and produced in partnership with the Museum of Indigenous People. See it May 21-June 28 at ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery, 105 S. Cortez St., Prescott; TisArtGallery.com.
Hopi Nurturing by Filmer (Yoimasa) Kewanyama (Hopi)
“Hopi children in infancy have their grandmothers, but they also have Ha’hai’ee, who is their grandmother katsina, who is there for them at the moment of birth. Her spirit is manifested in Hopi heirloom white corn. During their hair-washing and naming ceremony, the corn is placed in their crib. Ha’hai’ee is always with them. She nurtures them. She assures them that they will never be left alone.” — FilmerKewanyama
The Wild Wild West by Karen Clarkson (Choctaw)
“The Year of the Woman collection is a series I started back in 2019. They are portraits of today’s Native women. They are portraits of celebration. Each of them carries powerful attributes. Strength. Reverence. Gratitude. Tradition. Culture. Resilience. Innocence. Confidence. Vision.
“We Rise was honored with the first-place award in the Heard Indian Market 2021.
“My latest work is The Wild Wild West. It is a portrait of a young Navajo woman, Naiomi Glasses, rendered from a photograph taken by her brother Ty. While Naiomi is an accomplished traditional weaver, she has a tremendous passion for skateboarding, which she took up at the age of four. She is currently working diligently to gather funds for the Dine’ Skate Garden Project, which will bring a skateboard park to the 2 Grey Hills/Toadliena community on the Navajo Nation. A series of short videos of her skateboarding in traditional attire have catapulted her into the public eye via Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, Cowboys and Indians Magazine, Tony Hawk, and Teen Vogue.
“The making of The Wild Wild West was quite the journey. Painting in oil on a paper map was invigorating, and the subject was inspiring.” — Karen Clarkson