Recent Acquisition: Above Parched Ground by Shonto Begay
Shonto Begay, Above Parched Ground, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 30 in., Museum Purchase. Funds provided by Jerry Freund. Tucson Museum of Art Collection. 2021.14
TMA recently acquired a new paining for the Indigenous Arts collection. Diné (Navajo) artist, author and educator Shonto Begay painted Above Parched Ground in 2019. It depicts a scene of cracked earth with crows flying above. In the distance is a dust devil. According to the artist, this symbolizes how something ominous is always nearby and a part of life.
Begay’s acrylic paintings are done in a series of small, repetitive brush strokes. He is known for landscape imagery of the Navajo Nation, depicting both lush and desert-like scenes. His images depict the constant struggle for balance and harmony with humankind and Earth.
In his autobiographical images, Begay captures the beauty of a traditional Navajo upbringing and the harsh realities of modern reservation life. He explains in a 2021 interview for Forbes magazine:
“I go back and forth and tell the same story in various forms,” he said. “I just narrate and document my life, my struggles–not so much currently, but everything holistically. A lot of that I do not so much through anger and harsh paints–through lavender–letting the colors make peace, in a lot of ways just letting each stroke, each paint, each mark be syllables, be that word, in a sentence, to a paragraph in a great prayer–that’s pretty much what I do.”
Hear the artist’s words in this episode of Art Dealer Diaries, hosted by Dr. Mark Sublette of Medicine Man Gallery.
About the Artist
Born in 1954 in a hogan and raised on Diné land, known as the Navajo Nation, Shonto Begay is one of 16 children of a traditional Navajo rug weaver from the Bitter Water Clan and a medicine man born to the Salt Clan. Begay grew up herding sheep in Kletha Valley, located in Shonto, Arizona.
Begay worked for a decade as a National Park Service ranger at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Navajo National Monument in Arizona. He began professionally writing, illustrating and painting in 1983.
Begay is represented in galleries and museums worldwide. His art has been exhibited in solo shows at the Museum of Northern Arizona, Arizona State Museum, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, the American Indian Contemporary Arts Museum in San Francisco and Phoenix Art Museum.
Begay attended Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools all over the Navajo Reservation and high school in Kayenta, Arizona. He received an Associates of Fine Art degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California College of Arts and Crafts.
Shonto Begay lives and works in Northern Arizona. Find him online at www.shontobegay.net.