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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Nanibah Chacon (Diné-Xicana)
by America Meredith - Ahaleni

Nani Chacon, originally from Chinle now in Albuquerque, first started painting at age 16 as a graffiti artist. "My interest in art came from a very urban experience." She said representational figurative painting as "classical" and is "technically challenged by the figure;" however she wants her figurative subjects to tell as deeper story.

Nanibah Chacon's mural, She Taught Us To Weave, reexamines the tools of sustenance and communication in a complex age of technology. A low-powered radio transmitter emits the Navajo phrase "Hozo naahaslii" on station 96.9. "Hozho" encompasses the intrinsic value of living beauty.

Her painting The Origin overlays a Navajo basket design with a woman. Although she had the design pictured in her head, she couldn't grid out the painting. Finally she began painting from the center of the basket, known as the "origin" and spiraled outward. "It all finally worked," and reinforced the metaphors of the basket—a common origin that binds people together.

This series of Navajo women and textile designs explores Navajo philosophy "and how much it is not about the past." Nani said. Her 100-foot-long mural, She Taught Us to Weave, in Albuquerque shows Spiderwoman, who taught Navajo people how to weave. A raven represents "cunning behavior." The whole mural addresses issues of new technologies and how we will use them. The word "hózhó" appears in the mural and is broadcast via radio frequencies—the question being will we choose to use new technologies in a way that incorporates hózhó—beauty, balance, and harmony?

"I know our ancestors did not create these philosophies to be relics," Nani said. "They are maps and guides to the future."

Her grandmother was a weaver, and Navajo "rugs speak to the region they come from." Likewise, Nani makes all her mural site-specific. For the Allan Houser sculpture garden at the MoCNA, she was inspired by the sand and painted Manifestations of the Glittering World, which shows a woman emerging form the sand and letting sand stream out of her hand. Glass is made from sand. In the glittering word, our world, "We live in the world of lights. We live in the world of glass." The strep-fret represents mountains, the cross-symbols works on innumerable levels—stars, four directions, the Christian cross, rifle-scopes. "I loved the cross pattern because it's so loaded," she says. "It is a symbol to divide."

At the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, Nani painted Against the Storm She Gathers Her Thoughts. The storm pattern is in the rug designs, and hair is the extension of thoughts, so tying up hair composes thoughts.

Against The Storm She Gathers Her Thoughts
the painting depicts a young woman in a contemplative state interwoven with traditional Native American motifs. Nani was selected not only for her relevant subject matter, but also for her demonstrated skill in large scale painting.
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