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.
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 basketa
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 frequenciesthe question
being will we choose to use new technologies in a way that incorporates
hózhóbeauty, 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 levelsstars, 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.
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.