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Navajo Artist Shonto Begay Featured

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Artists, dancers, musicians, activities and food from
Navajoland - or Dine Bikeyah as the Navajo say - will fill Flagstaff Aug. 7
- 8 for the 55th Annual Navajo Marketplace at the Museum of Northern
Arizona.

The Marketplace's featured artist this year is a prolific painter who uses
stories and visions from his life on the Navajo Reservation near Monument
Valley and utilizes art as his own personal therapy. Through his work,
Shonto Begay (the word shonto in Navajo describes the sparkles a ray of
light makes as it hits the water) allows us to experience the breathtaking
glory and the harsh realities generations have experienced on the
reservation.

"I paint images and subject matters to bring about closures in my own
life's experiences that left me a bit bewildered. Each piece begins with a
feeling, a yearning to bring into the light aspects of the psyche that need
my attention ... I face down my fears and embrace my passion fully there
before a blank canvas, and coax into my world a little bit more order and
peace. We have a journey to make, dust must be raised and pain endured,"
said Begay.

From the Navajo Bitterwater and Salt clans, he is the fifth child born to a
Navajo medicine man and a weaver and sheepherder. His journey from the
reservation to the Institute of American Indian Arts, then the California
College of Arts and Crafts, and finally completing a Native Artist
Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute in both New York and Washington,
D.C. has taken his art from his early interest in drawing to today's
statements about modern reservation life.

From first light upon the mesa to images of the streets of Manhattan, his
impressionistic brushstrokes depict moments in time that pay homage to his
memories or state his concerns about the environment or encroaching
development.

Whether an individual work startles or amazes, all of Begay's paintings
provoke a response from the viewer. Some of his paintings are the dramas
within, some are the dramas he experiences around him. "Northeast of
Chinle" shows a landscape of trash along the roadside in a nation that
cherishes the land. "In Witness to Changes" expresses the painter's
indelible memories of boyhood faces from boarding school, "more traumatized
than they realize," as they sit without power, in witness to the changes in
their lives. In "Helpless" we peer into what looks like a crash pad after
the party. While painting these images is an effort by the artist to heal
those situations, they evoke the roughness and everyday facts of life on
the reservation.

There are other Begay paintings, however, that celebrate the beauty within
and around him. His mother cooks over a woodstove in "My Mother's Kitchen."
"Morning Blessing" depicts a woman making a corn pollen offering at sunrise
and his new series of butterfly paintings are metaphors for the changes in
his life. Begay added, "From my grief and jubilations, painting is
externalizing for me - a blow hole through which all goes. The power has
always been in the storytelling."

Opening ceremonies for the marketplace start at 9 a.m. on Aug. 7 and will
include a traditional Navajo prayer, Honor Guard ceremonies, and Navajo
Code Talkers, Dr. Samuel Billson from Window Rock and Samuel Tso from
Lukachuka, will be available throughout the marketplace to meet the public
and sign copies of two books, "Navajo Weapon and Warriors" and "Navajo Code
Talkers."

Other scheduled events include performances by Casper and the Mighty 602
Band, dancing by the Little Bitterwater Hoop Dancers, accompanied by the
Antelope Trail Singers, and numerous art demonstrations. Rug-making will be
highlighted by Marilou Schultz and the Bighorse family.

The Traditional Navajo Woman in Contemporary Times will be discussed by Liz
Williams and ethnobotany tours along the Rio de Flag will be guided by Dine
educator and ethno botanist Theresa Boone-Schuler. Schuler gathered her
skill from her father, a noted herbalist who urged her to pass on the
knowledge of traditional healing plants by teaching about identification
and usage.

For more information, call (928) 774-5213 or visit www.musnaz.org.