Emerging artists' work featured in prez's office
By Glenda Rae Davis
WINDOW ROCK, Feb. 9, 2012
(Times photo - Paul Natonabah)
DThe offices of the president and vice president have gotten a makeover intended to show all who enter the diversity in Navajo artistry.
The makeover is a project of the Navajo Nation Museum, which calls it ART SHARE, and it features work from 17 contemporary artists known for pushing the boundaries of Navajo art.
Six of the artists were on hand at the Jan. 30 reception unveiling ART SHARE in the president's office.
The youngest were brother and sister Tulane, 15, and Myleka John, 13, whose mixed media piece was selected for the 2011 Santa Fe Indian Market poster. The siblings, who are Tódích'íi'nii, born for Tábaahá, said they were surprised and excited about being featured at the office.
Tulane's artwork, displayed in the first lady's office, depicts a Ye'ii bicheii mask made of Legos on an acrylic-painted canvas. Myleka's acrylic painting of four Diyin Dine'é faces hangs in the president's office.
Their father, renowned metal sculptor and painter Alvin John, and mother, Iverna Parrish-John, recently moved the family back to Kayenta from Phoenix, saying, "we wanted them to have a better understanding of tradition. Instead of reading it from a book."
Another fresh take on traditional subjects was offered by Ryan Singer, whose painting "Trading Post" is located in the executive office. This vibrant-colored oil is Ryan's interpretation of an old black-and-white photo from the 1950s.
"I like using old photos and changing them up a little bit," he noted.
Art has been a part of his life since the age of 4, though he did not find his preferred medium, painting, until he was 16. Originally from Tuba City, Singer, now 38, said he wants to inspire Navajo youth the way his idols Ed Singer and T.C. Cannon have inspired him.
"I want Native youth to see us, Navajo artists, using contemporary artwork to where they think, 'I can do that.' It's all about being inspirational," said Singer, who is Tódích'íi'nii born for Kinyaa'áanii.
Like Singer, Elton Manygoats said he was honored to see his work on display in the presidential offices.
"It's great that someone finally noticed. I'm just glad it's finally happening," he said.
Manygoats, 36, who is from Coalmine Mesa, Ariz., spent most of his childhood herding sheep in the canyons where he lived, not realizing his talent as an artist until high school. Tracing comics and coloring books since he was 6, Manygoats also kept busy while the sheep grazed.
"I did carvings on canyon walls and played with yucca, made figures out of that," he said.
Manygoats, who is Ashiihí born for Chíshí, said he decided to pursue art in college but after several years at different institutions, he came to the conclusion that he was exhausted and left school.
It wasn't until he was working construction that he started immersing himself in mixed media art, and says he likes to make "junk into art." His mixed media piece hanging in the president's office, titled "The Shield," is made from the metal lid of a 10-gallon drum.
Phil Singer, 48, (no relation to Ryan Singer) uses weaving as a medium for his artistic expression. The Kayenta resident, who is Tl'ízí Lání, born for Ashiihí, originally planned to become a printmaker but started weaving seven years ago after attending a two-week seminar.
"I feel I was given a gift and in return I share that with everyone," he said.
Singer's work consists of abstract designs intended to tantalize the senses. Two of his weavings are hung in the executive offices.
The exhibit stretches into the jewelry field as well, including Window Rock native Cody Sanderson. Sanderson, who is Tódích'íi'nii, born for the Nambé Pueblo Summer Clan, started out as a traveling salesman for a jewelry company.
His metalsmithing career began with experimentation, asking questions of other jewelers, and taking courses.
Sanderson has six pieces on display in the executive office all displaying a wide range of his capabilities.
"A lot of my techniques are traditional techniques but I just mix them up and make them my own," he said.
Traditional techniques Sanderson uses include stamping, appliqué and cast work. Sanderson currently resides in Santa Fe, N.M.
For each of these emerging artists, ART SHARE is a way to expand and diversify their audience, as well as to find some possible customers.
And President Ben Shelly assured them in his welcome remarks at the opening that he would promote the artists and their work to visitors.
Art Share will be a permanent artistic showcase at the president's office exchanging the artwork every year with new artists. The next exchange will happen on Jan. 11, 2013.