A look at 5 murals by Native artists

A look at five murals by Native artists worth taking a drive to see

“In the Garden of Sharing” is located on the Albuquerque Community Foundation exterior wall near the rear of the building, closest to SeventhStreet and Tijeras Avenue NW in Downtown Albuquerque, and is part of a series of murals by Native artists. (Courtesy of Robin Dunitz)

Editor’s note: The fourth Sunday of each month, Journal Arts Editor Adrian Gomez tells the stories behind some of the hidden gems you can see across the state in “Gimme Five.”

In New Mexico, it’s not uncommon to see multi-colored murals adding some pizazz to a structure.

Oftentimes, the pieces of art are exploring a multitude of questions.

This is exactly what inspired Robin Dunitz to work with Deborah Jojola on the postcard book, “Walls of Resistance Walls of Pride: New Mexican Murals by Native Artists.”

The book features 24 murals located across the state.

Dunitz not only wanted to bring attention to the murals, but to give New Mexicans a reason to get in the car and become a tourist in their own state.

Jojola says mural painting has been an expressive journey for many Native artists on the Rez, in urban towns and in large city districts.

“Abandoned building walls and spray-paints become the tools of self-expression and provocative content,” Jojola writes. “Our creative process boldly demonstrates our personal, cultural, social, and political beliefs, as we pivot lives in two worlds.”

Today, “Gimme Five” highlights five of those murals using the artists’ words.

From Albuquerque to Shiprock and from Farmington to Las Cruces, the artists let visitors know the process of how it became to be.

1. “In the Garden of Sharing”

“In the Garden of Sharing” is located on the Albuquerque Community Foundation exterior wall near the rear of the building, closest to SeventhStreet and Tijeras Avenue NW in Downtown Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Robin Dunitz)

The mural was created in 2019 and resides on the Albuquerque Community Foundation exterior wall near the rear of the building, closest to Seventh Street and Tijeras Avenue NW in Downtown Albuquerque.

It was created by Paz and painted by Nani Chacón, Albert Rosales, Al Na’ir Lara, Kerry Bergen, Manuel Hernandez and youth from Working Classroom.

“Identifying the concept that will make a mural come to life can be the most challenging aspect of the creative process,” the group says. “Fortunately, we were gifted with a theme that is simple yet profound: sharing.”

Paz says the project is an excellent example of talented youth and the greater community sharing in the creative process to produce a work of art that is visually stunning and meaningful.

2. “Untitled”

“Untitled” is located at 401 N. Mesilla St. in Las Cruces. (Courtesy of Robin Dunitz)

The mural is located at 401 N. Mesilla St. in Las Cruces and was created by SABA (Diné), VyalOne (Zuni/Chicano) and 3Nolam. It was created in 2021.

VyalOne says although raised in East Los Angeles, his mom is from Albuquerque and his roots go back there from forever.

“I have Zuni blood, which I’m starting to learn about. And when I say ‘just,’ I mean these last 10 years or so. The eyes to me are symbols of protection. And they’re symbols of magic, reference to my own personal religious practices of magic. I want the wall to have protection and good energy.”

Meanwhile, SABA refers to himself as an arrow soul artist because “graffiti artist was not our term that we coined for ourselves.”

“Kind of like Indian. I’m not an Indian. I am Diné,” SABA says. “I love to incorporate the landscape, a lot of artifacts, and different things to represent the Southwest.”

3. “One Uniform to Represent All”

“One Uniform to Represent All” is located on an abandoned building on Highway 64 in Shiprock. (Courtesy of Robin Dunitz)

This mural was created in 2021 by Skindian Art, Mis_Sould and EWZR. It is located on an abandoned building on U.S. 64 in Shiprock.

Skindian Art painted the mural because growing up, he didn’t know how to speak Navajo.

“I was around my family who spoke it frequently and I did pick up a lot of words and phrases,” Skindian Art says. “I’m sure if I asked as a little kid to be taught my Navajo language, I would be fluent in the language.”

Skindian Art says there are a lot of Native American murals, but felt there wasn’t a lot about the Navajo Code Talkers.

“I know our Navajo people are proud of all of our Code Talkers,” he says. “I know I am, so I painted this mural with their uniform and some of our beautiful Navajo land.”

4. “Freshtown”

“Freshtown” is located at 104 East Main St. in Farmington. (Courtesy of Robin Dunitz)

In 2022, Diné artist Luke Paul created the mural, located at 104 E. Main St. in Farmington.

Paul says the mural represents the four-corner landscape – where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet.

“The idea came from the owner of the Thunderbird Tax,” Paul says. “She wanted to represent the landscape of the people she does taxes for. She does the taxes of people living on the outskirts of town. They all come in to have their taxes done. She didn’t want to leave anybody out.”

Paul says the mural is a representation of everyone who lives there.

“Not just Native, but all cultures that come together here,” he says. “I tried to represent it with spray paint, and that’s the landscape I came up with.”

5. “Santa Clara Women Selling Pottery”

“Santa Clara Women Selling Pottery” is located on the exterior of the Maisel Building located at 510 Central Ave. SW in Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Robin Dunitz)

This mural is created by Pablita Velarde in 1939. It’s the oldest mural in the postcard book. It is located on the exterior of the Maisel Building located at 510 Central Ave. SW in Albuquerque.

Velarde was from Santa Clara Pueblo and a force in the art world.

Jojola says Velarde continues to play a crucial role for young Native women artists today.

“She was the matriarch of a handful of women pueblo painters who achieve prominence,” Jojola says.

Velarde left home at an early age to attend the Santa Fe Indian School. While there, she overcame many obstacles, learning painting techniques for depicting pueblo life.

“Velarde paintings were commissioned by Bandelier National Monument under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program and she went on to pursue a lifelong career, creating numerous works, now in many museum and private collections,” Jojola says.

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