Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Otter Skin" by Sheldon Harvey

My painting arrived today! I'm so excited.

While I was in Phoenix I went to the Heard Museum. They were having their twice-yearly sale at their store. I had not known about that, I was just really lucky.

I had planned to buy a Navajo rug while in Phoenix, and they had some good prices at the museum store.

Much to my own surprise, I bought a painting instead! I can't explain why, but when I saw this painting, I just knew I had to have it. In part because I just love the colors. But there is something more that I can't explain.

After I showed a interest in this painting, they took me into a storeroom where they had four or five other paintings by the same artist. They were nice, but I was stuck on this one.

Maybe I was drawn to this one so much because I've recently re-discovered Paul Klee and I noticed something similar here. I've done lots of Google searching after buying this to find out more about this artist, and several sites mention the influence of Klee, among others. To the right I've added an image of "Crystal Gazer", which is another Locust, but with a more clear nod to Klee.

All I really know is that this character is Locust. In traditional stories, Locust was the first to come into this world, before the first man and woman. The title of my piece is "Otter Skin", which I assume refers to what he is wearing.

I notice a bit of comic-book influence in some of his paintings, such as "New Look Connection", to the left.

Now I just have to find a space to hang this!


Anonymous said...

There is no "Comic book influence"
Please do research and learn about Religious aspects.

Ed said...

I am aware that this painting, as well as many other works by Sheldon Harvey are inspired by and make references to Navajo religion and traditions.

I would love to learn more about those traditions. Do you have any recommendations of things I could read?

It is my understanding that many of the stories are only shared with members of the tribe, and are thus not available to me. Sheldon Harvey has stated that he obtained permission from tribal leaders to make these images available.

I spoke with him briefly about the meaning of one of his other paintings and he explained some of the story.

His visual style is influenced by many things, including European and Japanese artists. I asked him specifically about Paul Klee and he acknowledged an interest in and admiration for Klee. I see influences from comic book drawing style in some of his images. Whether he is doing that intentionally or not, it in no way diminishes the religious content.

The term "comic book" no longer refers only to funny stories for children. Many artists use the "comic book" format or style to express many things.

Other Native American artists, such as Jason Garcia (Okuu Pin), show a more clear influence of comics and video games, while also incorporating aspects of their traditional culture.