First American Art Magazine No. 13, Winter 2016/17 - Page 21

Damian Jim (Diné), The New Paradigm, 2014, digital painting. Image courtesy of the artist. Trading Post in Bluff, Utah, that I came to realize that our culture, through reading and researching the complex philosophy and religious practices that make up our world, was beautiful. Medicine men have the ability to remember long hours of recitation of verses and songs, and remember intricate sandpaintings that take hours to create, only to return the colored sand back to the earth. A medicine man knows the story behind each ceremony and the ailment meant to be cured in the process and to have the whole ceremonial rite happen with the task-mindedness of a project manager. At first I simply thought of the sandpaintings as mere artifacts of the ceremony, but through process and living with the Navajo way of life, I began to see that reverence should be placed on these depictions of the deities. I began handing any paintings I had created of those deities out for free instead of selling them. Before I would get to that step, though, I was creating narratives of these ceremonies, pivotal moments frozen on canvas: a painting dedicated to Massacre Cave with a complex geometric background and Spider Woman crosses containing deity portraits; the dance of the wind people in a scene from the Wind Way; the creation of First Man and First Woman, or the death of the giant in the Hero Twins epic. The ideas flowed into Navajo baskets, rugs, jewelry, and sculptures. I had unfettered access to a library full of design, architecture, ethnological books, as well as access to master artists and their artwork. Studying computer information systems was a means to rewrite the narrative. The designs were generated on the computer. The ability to present, capture, and even manipulate the data was important to help me realize the impact of contemporary art forms that included digital media. I created my soul-eater characters back in 1992 in Adobe Illustrator; creating designs using a visual interface was natural to me. I created and manipulated ideas in Adobe Photoshop in the late ’90s. For the digital painting Brot hers, I used the digital design as a reference to paint the canvas. My painting of corn deities, The Circle of Life, was also created in Adobe Illustrator and printed using a silkscreening process. All this rich history and culture allowed me to go beyond the design, while graphic design taught me the right processes and techniques to achieve the effect, and the computer allowed me to blend it all until I created my voice, art that is mine. Do you have a philosophy that dictates your aesthetic process? WINTER 2016/17 | 19