This week’s post is by Amber Anderson, a student in Native American Art and Material Culture in Spring 2013. Students in the class wrote about work by Native American artists from the OSU Museum of Art permanent collection.
Honoring the Spirit of All Things, by Benjamin Harjo, Jr., is an opaque watercolor painting on paper. Harjo, both Seminole and Absentee Shawnee, is one of the leading Native American artists in the United States. Born in Clovis, New Mexico, his original interest was in creating cartoons for his high school. He graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1974 with a degree in Fine Arts and received his Associates degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His art can be seen in numerous museums in Oklahoma and New Mexico. A recipient of many awards, Harjo’s work can also be found in the homes of private art collectors and institutions.
Honoring the Spirit of All Things, created in 2001, uses bold colors and geometric shapes in order to relay Harjo’s Native American heritage to his audience. Through the use of vivid reds, oranges, blues, and greens, the face of an Indian man can be seen. Harjo also uses the traditional Seminole patchwork pattern in the piece in order to season the art with his rich culture. Appearing as a mosaic of Native American symbolism, this piece utilizes the saturation of colors in order to draw in the viewer. Another figurative element included in this piece includes the hybridity of the geometry with the realistic Native American face. This unique, vibrant combination provides the viewer with a sense of order in chaos.
Benjamin Harjo, Jr., has produced art using a multitude of different types of media including oil, pencil, printmaking, and many others. Though this piece is very large (40 x 28 inches), Harjo has become popular through his miniature paintings as well. He has mentioned in interviews that his art is a depiction of his wide range of emotions and that the use of bright colors is symbolic of his sense of happiness and joy.