Historic Diné textiles, warrior faces and recycled coyotes emerge from the palettes of a trio of emerging Native American artists at Gallery Hózhó.
The three women incorporate images, techniques and ideas from their cultures, transforming them into paintings, prints and sculptures inside the Hotel Chaco gallery. The show will hang through May 18.
Born in Tuba City, Arizona, Darby Raymond-Overstreet (Diné) was inspired by her great-grandmother’s weavings.
Today she creates a hybrid collage of her own prints.
“Each of the pieces is relief prints,” she said in a telephone interview from Chimayó. “I cut them up and collage them into new geometric forms.”
The designs also represent her response to cultural appropriation, she said.
On 2012, Urban Outfitters used tribal prints on women’s underwear and flasks, she explained.
“It was pretty rude and offensive.”
Raymond-Overstreet had always created artwork, but thought she would study medicine when she was accepted to Dartmouth College. But her advisers convinced her she could help her community through her art.
“Each composition is inspired by observations I’ve made while being in the outdoors,” she said. “With the onset of the pandemic, I was able to spend more time in the outdoors. These pieces are representative of the beautiful moments I’ve seen in nature.”
A. Thompson created a coyote out of a discarded shoe she found on the Navajo reservation.
“I love to use different materials,” she said in a phone interview from Chinle, Arizona. “I don’t believe art is just sketching and jewelry.”
Thompson had entered a recycled art show when she noticed trashed shoes scattered across the reservation.
“I wanted to pinpoint that growing up on the reservation is not just fun and glory,” Thompson continued. “In a way, it’s a form of decolonization. Something someone once thought was precious is now trash. Anything can be art.”
She assembled the sculpture using the shoe, feathers and wood.
“It all came together,” she said. “I wasn’t even focused on it being a coyote. It came to life by itself.”
Her acrylic piece “Untitled 2” emerged as a result of the pandemic. Thompson had been attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago when the shutdown forced her to return to her original career in health care administration in a dialysis facility.
“I wanted peace and Zen and healing and understanding,” she said. “I wanted to turn down the emotions. I wanted to feel a form of comfort.”
She added a partial wooden frame to the piece she spray painted and stenciled with arrowheads.
“I wanted you to come into the painting and leave and not get trapped” by a full frame, she explained. “I love to use arrowheads; it’s kind of a trademark. Arrowheads in our culture are a form of protection.”
Thompson began referencing her Native culture after an encounter on the New York subway. A fellow passenger stared at her, then asked who she was.
“I’m Native American; I’m Navajo; I’m from the reservation,” Thompson said. “He said, ‘Holy s—, you people are still alive.’
“It was amazing for me. That’s why I infuse my culture into my art.”
She hopes to return to her studies when the pandemic ends.
Hózhó is a Diné (Navajo) word encompassing beauty, health, order and interconnectedness. Used to describe a state of being, hózhó describes acting in accordance with nature and integrity.