Diné Bahane’ is a beautiful story told as a contemporary museum exhibit

Tsanavi Spoonhunter

Heard Museum opens solo exhibition on July 5; profiles one artist, Raven Chacon’s, rendition of his tribe’s creation story with a sound installation, lights, and text.

Raven Chacon's culture has influenced his art throughout his career. His new exhibit is a retelling of the Navajo creation story in a way that transcends the traditional form of Native storytelling.

Raven Chacon

“It was a beautiful story that I wanted to reference,” said Chacon. “Myself being Diné, I felt it was appropriate, to begin with this story, especially because we’re showing it in the Southwest… in Arizona, there is a large population of Diné people who can relate to this story.”

The creation story, Diné Bahane’, is rooted in Chacon’s upbringing. He was born in Fort Defiance on the Navajo Nation. However, he was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His personal story informs how this legend will be told.

Chacon’s solo exhibition, Still Life N. 3, will retell the ancient story in a contemporary way.

“Those are the things that I'm interested in,” he said. “Artists find ways to recreate with moving images or video with sound, so this installation is no different.”

What many visitors expect when they pass through the Heard is to learn about the history of Native peoples of the Southwest, but Chacon’s exhibition will bring a new flare. The new exhibit is what many would classify as traditional and contemporary: a binary work.

It’s expected to be an experience that is unique and collaborative.

Chacon has intentionally been inclusive towards his Native community when creating projects -- from working with other musicians to working with other contemporary artists — and this exhibition is no different. He worked with a Diné woman who is featured in the sound installation.

Melvatha Chee, is a linguist and scholar. She translated the Diné creation story and her voice is whose you’ll hear when you walk through the Museum’s Jacobson Gallery to view his installment.

“This story is not being told linearly, nor will it be decipherable by people who aren’t speaking Navajo,” said Chacon. “There’s been translations and other print versions of this narrative, so for me, it was important to find another form to put it into.”

This is installation is the third of a series made by Chacon and will be exhibited at the Heard Museum from July 5 through November 3.

“I’m interested in this site specificity, where the (installation) is being exhibited,” he said. “The audiences will be able to link the land to this installation.”

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Tsanavi Spoonhunter, Northern Arapaho and Northern Paiute, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today.

Comments (1)

Raven Chacon's Still Life No. 3 is an interesting sound and light installation. However, I wonder how appropriate it is for this installation to be on display during the summer months when there is no snow on the mountains.