In an article for the DesertLeaf published January 2022 (https://online.dliphtml5.com/uyvk/nocz/#p=28), I shared the story and art of Chip Thomas.
While driving through Northern Arizona, I caught glimpses of faces pasted on dilapidated buildings along the way. It piqued my curiosity and I made sure to stop at one on the way home.
My journey of the discovery of Chip Thomas had begun. I soon learned more about this physician, photographer and activist-artist who has chronicled the lives of the Navajo people in his larger-than-life photo murals.
I returned several times to find these hidden gems along the highways of the Navajo nation. Each trip has proved to be a new experience, as the landscape of his art undergoes change over time. i hope to continue to discover his work as it evolves.
Meeting Chip in person was a special experience. My friend Paula and I sat down with Chip in his home. He has a vast knowledge and respect for the Navajo land and people that he loves. We were so engaged in discussing the evolution of his art and future plans that I didn't take a photo of him - it seemed like an intrusion into the energy of the moment.
Chip's enthusiasm about his use of sheer fabric in his recent installations was palpable. When I later saw it in person at the Fort Garland Museum in Southern Colorado, I was mesmerized by its eerie effect in filling the space with unspoken emotions.
To learn more about Chip Thomas (aka jestonorama) and his art, visit jetsonorama.net, justseeds.ort, facebook.com/ThePaintedDesertProject and Instagram: @jetsonorama.
Other images not included in the DesertLeaf article:
"Blue Bird" - The black and white photographs of Chip Thomas draw attention to the faces and people of the land. Some include iconic symbols - the ubiquitous sheep or the Blue Bird flour sack (the most popular brand of flour used by Navajos). Here, J.C. Morningstar holds two of her bunnies. Located at Black Mesa Junction on Highway 160.
"Generations" - Edzavier is depicted with his great-grandparents Rose and Paul Hurley on a roadside stand located near Bitter Springs o Highway 89A. As a favorite image of his, Chip Thomas plans to apply a new copy when needed.
"Believe" - Using the early wheat-pasting process, images took on the texture of the material and weathered in place. The tannin of the wood caused yellowing of the whites in the photos and the rough surface of the old wood made it difficult to apply the prints. A newer technique helps ensure the longevity of the images. Image of Jordan Nez, at the abandoned Anasazi Hotel, near Tsegi.
Created May, 2020, when the Navajo Nation had the third highest COVID rate in the U.S. This image depicts grass dancer Ryan Pinto with text by Shi Buddy.