2012 - Navajo TIME: Harmony in the Making

For Navajo TIME 2012, Harmony in the Making/ Hózhó Náhásdlíí, Art in Public Places of New Mexico Arts commissioned eight Native and non-Native artists to make temporary, environmentally based artworks that were installed for public viewing at such raw—sometimes profound—settings as Arizona's Navajo Nation Museum courtyard, Navajo Nation Zoo in Window Rock, and Canyon de Chelly Visitors Center at Chinle. In New Mexico, locations include Waterflow, Tse-Bonito and the courtyard at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe.

The Skylark Foundation funded a cultural advisor for each artist. Advisors included a Navajo astronomer, a medicine man, a family of traditional weavers who dye sheep wool and an environmental activist from Navajo Nation.

The artists' installations incorporated such diverse mediums and expressions as sound, movement, time and space, locally collected resources, oral history, astronomy, rock cairns and ecological architectural and environmental systems. Subjects included the complex nature of issues such as Native and non-Native interpretations to the reclamation of a coal-mining site, approaches to Navajo cosmology, artists' and participants' contemporary responses to living in harmony with nature.

"2012 Navajo TIME Harmony in the Making/ Hózhó Náhásdlíí is a significant step toward integrating Native and non-Native conceptions of that time and place when/where land and spirit coincide," said renowned art critic Lucy R. Lippard. "Coming from very different directions, inventive project by Diné and Anglo artists in various combinations offer a collage of meaning and intent that should illuminate new facets of where we stand—whether it is Diné Bikeyah or New Mexico."

Manuelito Wheeler, director of Navajo Nation Museum, described TIME 2012 as an expression of “nation building” as non-Native and Native artists from New Mexico came together for the first time at Navajo Nation.

Featured Work:

Singing Toward the Wind Now/Signing Toward the Sun Now
Raven Chacon
piece comprised four metal sculptures which function as musical instruments played by the natural elements. Each sculpture was designed to appear as an electrical utility tower, but incorporated Navajo geometries from traditional weaving and painting designs. Two of the towers functioned as harps: Their strings were activated by the wind, producing a soft, singing drone tuned to the key of Navajo corn-grinding songs. The other two were solar-powered oscillators producing a faint electronic beating sound. Singing Toward recognized natural beauty within encroaching technological enemies.

Wool Pole
Matthew Chase-Daniel
Wool Pole was part of Chase-Daniel's ongoing series of site-specific pole sculptures placed in diverse environments around the world. Works in the series were made from locally collected materials which are part of each region's culture and ecology. Wool Pole used Churro sheep wool, from local Navajo herds, in the four traditional colors. Over time, the sculpture was affected by the elements. The balls and strands of wool broke down in a natural process of decomposition and redistributed their bounty into the surrounding landscape. The artwork spoke of the cyclical aspect of nature and of the relationships to these cycles.

Shane Hendren
Cairns have been employed by the Navajo People since time immemorial. Noted for their spiritual purposes, cairns function as identifiers of water sources and as guide markers. They are still found and used throughout the Navajo Nation and beyond its borders. Cairns constructed of stone have the longest life span, but what really ensures their significance is their continued use by the people. Maintaining the cairn provides a continued connection to its place by passing on to future generations its purpose and relevance. In this way the cairn becomes an entity that ties the people to the place and connects all who recognize and maintain it, providing a physical marker for all to reference and relate to.

Sq’ Bik’ehgo Na’adá (We Live in Accordance with the Stars)
Chrissie Orr, Susanna Carlisle & Bruce Hamilton
We Live in Accordance with the Stars/Sq’ Bik’ehgo Na’adá took place on June 20, at 16:09 MST in Window Rock at the coordinates 35° 39' 52" N 109° 03' 02" W, an earth drawing inspired by the stars and created with materials and images appropriate to the unique environment and cultural communities of the Navajo. By bringing the constellations to the earth, the artists aspired to reconnect the earth with the sky and reflect unity, beauty, mystery, and sacredness. Through thoughtful collaboration and the convergence of cultures—contemporary and traditional—the project was meant to shift our ways of viewing the world, reconnecting us to what the stars have always been trying to tell us.

Binding Sky
Esther Belin, Andrea Polli & Venaya Yazzie
Binding Sky was part of a threefold experience that used radio, oral history and education to bring greater public attention to the complexities of the inter-relationships between air, people and technology on the Navajo Nation and beyond. The project used the medium of air to convey its stories, and took audiences on a journey through Navajo country through broadcast radio and smart-phone apps. The oral history component explored, through interviews with tribal members with varied expertise, how the changing cultural landscape transforms spiritual and physical health. Site-specific components included the construction of benches—placed in the Four Corners region of New Mexico—which allowed participants to personally observe this transforming biosphere.

Storm King
Don Redman
Storm King was a kinetic experiment. Redman’s wind totem was designed to make the invisible visible. When the wind pushes upon the airfoils, the object rotated. At a certain point, centrifugal force pushed the airfoils out from the axis of rotation, which reduced the speed. Working with the three natural laws of gravity, centrifugal force, and lift, the airfoils propelled the object in a counterclockwise rotation. Depending on the velocity of the dominant wind, one law overrode another, creating a harmony of movement. This movement harnessed the wind to produce electricity which powered LED flood lights to illuminate the object. It is important to note that viewers know this piece was located on top of a coal-reclamation site.

Edges of the Ephemeral
Anna Tsouhlarakis

Edges of the Ephemeral was an installation reflecting on interpretations of the Navajo creation story and the current domain, the fourth world. Through a minimalist lens, Tsouhlarakis created spatial constructions of reality and myth that converged at moments of pause where text and object illustrated predictions of the Navajo future. Her materials suggested a hindered return to the natural while her palette subtly evokes the industrial. Tsouhlarakis studied at Dartmouth College and received her MFA from Yale University. She had exhibitions at the Thunder Bay Gallery in Ontario and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

Wil Wilson
Since 2005, Wilson has been creating a series of artworks entitled Auto Immune Response, which takes as its subject the quixotic relationship between a post-apocalyptic Diné man and the devastatingly beautiful but toxic environment he inhabits. The series is an allegorical investigation of the extraordinarily rapid transformation of indigenous lifeways, consequential disease, and strategies of response that enable cultural survival. This iteration of the Auto Immune Response series featured an installation of a hogan greenhouse, the Auto Immune Response LAB, in which indigenous food plants are grown. This project served as a pollinator, creating formats for exchange and production that questioned and challenged the social, cultural and environmental systems that surround us.