First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 23

life he completed high profile mural projects for the Department of Interior building in Washington, DC, and the Navajo Council Chambers in Window Rock, Arizona. Harrison Begay enjoyed wide popularity in his time, but many now dismiss his art due to the saccha- rine quality of some of his paintings and saturation of the market with inex- pensive silkscreen prints of his work, produced and distributed through Tewa Enterprises. 1 Begay and Nailor stand apart from other Navajo graduates of Dunn’s program, such as Andy Tsinajinnie and Quincy Tahoma, through their repeated use of Navajo ceremonial sandpainting imagery. This distinctive characteristic of both Begay’s and Nailor’s work may, at first, seem inconsequential. However, when we consider their paintings within the context of Navajo ceremonial sand- painting practice we may be led to regard their artworks in a different and perhaps more positive light. While Begay’s and Nailor’s work conformed in many ways to Dunn’s proscriptive Studio Style, in other ways it also constituted a significant inno- vation in Native painting, setting these artists apart from their peers. To fully understand this development in Native painting, we must consider the trans- cultural context in which it evolved. The designs used by Nailor and Begay were not exact transpositions of sandpainting imagery from the hogan floor to water- color on paper. 2 They were instead creative adaptations of sandpainting imagery to a new medium for a new audience; and, while their works were innovative, they also represent a significant continuity with previous Navajo visual forms. Nailor and Begay were achieving creative transforma- tion and, at the same time, demonstrating cultural continuity through their use of sandpainting imagery. 1. In 1954 Harrison Begay, Charles Barrows, and A. Hamilton Melcher established Tewa Enterprises, a silkscreen business in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Tewa Enterprises also issued prints of Gerald Nailor’s and Allan Houser’s paintings. 2. Sandpainting designs are composed of conven- tionalized representations of characters and sto- ries from the various Navajo chantways that are performed to heal individuals. They are drawn in crushed stone, pollen, and other organic materials on the hogan floor. SPRING 2019 | 21