Local artist harnesses inspiration from many areas to create beauty
by Janet Wilcox
“Art has always been my passion and my getaway from this world,” states Troi Whitethorne, a successful Navajo artist with roots in San Juan County.
“The inspiration of colors and abstracts has always been the fire that fuels my motivation to create.”
For Troi, art is expressed in a variety of ways and “is like breathing. I need it. It’s my air.”
Troi had many opportunities in elementary school in Blanding and in Shonto, AZ to develop his painting skills.
“I once made a huge painting of Africa for a fourth grade project,” said Troi. “My teacher was the support for that project.”
“There are a handful of teachers who inspired me to follow my heart, and my love for the Arts.
“Tony Wojcik was my high school art teacher and he taught all of us a lot about different kinds of art.
Wojick explains that all students at San Juan High School are required to take a fine arts class of some sort. Many chose art rather than music (which required either singing or playing an instrument).
Wojik told his students that even though they couldn’t sing or play, “they could draw lines!” And he challenged them to “see” better, and understand some of the basic principles of art.
Wojcik based his instruction on the book “Drawing on the Right Side” by Betty Edwards. “Everyone can improve if they want to. I always graded my students on their efforts.”
Troi is one of several good artists who had their start under his tutelage.
Troi grew up in San Juan County and graduated from San Juan High school in 1991. He played football at San Juan High, along with his brother Charlie Dandy Jr. and wrestled for his Uncle Jim Dandy Sr.
When he was in Blanding Elementary, he won honorable mention in a Reflections Contest and later a governor’s award for art.
Troi’s second mentor was an artist from France who was his private art school instructor in Salt Lake City.
Baje Whitethorne, along with other aunts and uncles, were also cheering him as he developed his own style and technique.
“My uncle Baje Whitethorne just recently made the major headline story in Cowboys & Indians magazine. I’m so happy for his career. I’ve traveled with my uncle since I was a kid all over the western part of the USA.”
Troi’s mother, Ruby Whitethorne, was a major support in his art career, as was his father Edward.”
Ruby is a sister to the late Jim Dandy Sr. “On my dad’s side we are Hopi/ Navajo/Swedish, on my mom’s side Navajo-Athabascan ‘both the same’ as my grandma Cora Dandy used to say.
“I‘ve had many famous mentors along the road to my career. I met RC Gorman many years back and he gave me a few pointers. Beverly Black Sheep, Jesse Monogye, Johnson Yazzie, and many more have also been a positive role models for me.”
For 30 years, Whitethorne traveled across the Southwest going from show to show with his dad and Uncle Baje, honing his craft and getting better at techniques and developing his own style.
“The themes I use vary from each other. My first love is for the Japanese ink and watercolor, acrylics and graphite and pastels. These mediums are my favorites.
“So most of my works are mixed media. I also work on canvas and wood boards and murals. I do a lot still lives and abstracts.
“My biggest paintings range from 5 feet to 15 feet. These are primarily of wildlife, native dancers or horses. I also have greeting cards and prints available and take on commissions.
“No idea is unreachable. Anything is possible.”
Another creative but divergent path started 13 years ago for Troi, when he worked as a Native American Fashion Producer. At the time he was in Tuba City and working for the Explore Navajo Museum.
“We were looking for a way to bring more people into the cultural awareness museum for the Navajo History, so I decided to have an art show and fashion show during the Western Navajo Fair.
“There were plenty of new ‘up and coming’ Native designers from Montana to Texas and New Mexico, and Arizona and the Native models were from all over USA and Canada.”
The last fashion show he produced was in Santa Fe NM during the largest Indian Art Market in the World.
“It was a great experience where I worked with many people, designers and models from all walks of life.”
Some of them moved on to New York and Paris, France to further their careers.” But all got their start and experience in the shows Troi produced.
Many of his sales are through the Internet or referrals from past customers. Contact Troi at 928-401-8489, email TLWHitethorne@gmail.com, or Whitethornetroi on Instagram.