by Leo Platero
To a casual observer this contemporary painting 24” x 32” by the sheepherder has four girls dressed up in some cultural regalia with various colors and a large sun symbol. There usually is an explanation by the artist and also by traditional Navajo who know something about the Navajo culture.
To a Navajo person the four girls represent the four sacred colors and there is Father sun and Mother earth also in the painting. Simply put this painting is a portrait of the holy family of the Navajos. Father Sun is shining behind its four daughters and the four girls stand proudly on Mother Earth. In the girls right hand is a green pinion branch, a product of Mother Earth and Father Sun. In their left hand is the gourd rattle. Feathers and sacred mask are also worn as a way of communication through sacred songs and dance. The girls are also wearing a rug dress with naaja’ ( squash blossom) and a beautiful silver concho belt.
A book published by the San Juan School District in 1982 by a Navajo author Clyde Benally with Andrew O. Wiget, John R. Alley and Gary Blake help further explain some of the symbols and its meaning.
In the beginning of the book is a chart, Navajo Symbolic Association which contains some basic Navajo knowledge and culture.
To the East is dawn, with white as its sacred color and white shell as its sacred stone and Blanca Peak is the sacred mountain. Changing Woman, Talking God and Holy Woman are also in the East.
To the South is day with blue as its sacred color and Turquoise as its sacred stone and Mt. Taylor is the sacred mountain. To the southeast is the town of Grants, New Mexico. a Behwo chidii , Born for Water and Holy Boy are in the South.
To the West is dusk with yellow as its sacred color and abalone as its sacred stone and San Francisco Peak is the sacred mountain. On the east side is the town of Flagstone, Arizona. Calling God, Changing Woman and Holy Girl are in the South.
To the North is night with black as its sacred color and jet as its sacred stone and to the east is the town of Durango, Colorado. Black Yei’ii, Monster Slayer and Holy Man are in the North.
The beautiful gradation of colors is the rainbow, a way of traveling back and forth between the two parents.
Going from east to west is the Rio Grande River and flowing from north to south is the San Juan River.
In this contemporary painting is the influence of Picasso along with traditional Navajo symbols.