Emmi Whitehorse (b.1957) is a Native American abstract painter who creates meditative, layered abstract paintings evocative of nature and the artist’s cultural heritage. A member of Navajo Nation, Whitehorse grew up in a family of sheep farmers who spoke only Navajo. Growing up so connected to the land, she began to take inspiration from the colors, shapes and textures from the landscape around her. Her contemporary paintings are considered wonderful examples of many Native American women artists. And, we want to shine a spotlight on her work.
Emmi Whitehorse (b.1957) is a Native American abstract painter who creates meditative, layered abstract paintings evocative of nature and the artist’s cultural heritage. A member of Navajo Nation, Whitehorse grew up in a family of sheep farmers who spoke only Navajo. Growing up so connected to the land, she began to take inspiration from the colors, shapes and textures from the landscape around her. Her comtemporary
Whitehorse started creating art as a child, and later won a scholarship to the University of New Mexico to study art. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in art from UNM, finishing in 1982. She has created prolific output throughout her career, and her work has been shown in museums and galleries from New Mexico to Germany to Japan.
Natural Connection in Abstract Works
Coming from a family whose livelihood came from caring for land and animals, Whitehorse developed a deep appreciation for nature. As she expressed her connection to nature through art, Whitehorse moved through her career as nature moves—grounded, but unafraid of change. Wherever she goes, the landscape of her surroundings influences her textural, abstract pieces, from the vast desert of New Mexico to the tree-lined hills of Connecticut.
“My paintings tell the story of knowing land over time – of being completely, microcosmically within a place.” She has said of her abstract art. “I am defining a particular space, describing a particular place.”
Known for being apolitical in her art, Whitehorse favors connection and balance—creating inviting, meditative pieces that highlight the inclusiveness of her culture and her own perspective. She offers connection through her paintings, welcoming the viewer into her world of vibrant color and gentle natural landscapes. Soft washes of texture and color in her paintings set off details of flora, fauna and Navajo symbols.
The pieces Bloom I and Bloom II (2017) are mixed media on paper on canvas, featuring lush textural elements and fine detail. The mixed media create almost a collage-like feel, with the layers of details and the texture of raised paper against flat canvas. The abstract connection to nature in these pieces invites the viewer to recall memories of days spent in the sun, or to simply breathe and feel the calm of nature around them.
From her home in Santa Fe, Whitehorse uses the comforting colors of the warm sun on the orange and red rocks of New Mexico mixed with the soft white of desert flowers. She also incorporates layers of lines in smokey charcoal which reflect the contour of a wind-swept canyon, as well as symbols from her Navajo heritage.
Whitehorse’s philosophy on art is deeply influenced by Navajo culture, which values harmony and balance. She captures that harmony in art, creating space for the viewer to explore harmony in their own experience. “[My paintings] are purposefully meditative and mean to be seen slowly,” She says, “The intricate language of symbols refers to specific plants, people and experiences.”
Images courtesy of http://www.attheartiststable.org/artists/emmi-whitehorse-1/
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