- United States
Dan Namingha, United States
Height: 36 in. Width: 36 in.
Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of Virginia Vogel Mattern, 2003.1296
Photograph © Denver Art Museum 2009. All Rights Reserved.
- acrylic paint
About the Artist
Dan Namingha is a member of the Hopi tribe and was born in Arizona on the Hopi Reservation in 1950. He was raised by his grandparents while his mother worked as a nurse off the Reservation. Namingha comes from a long line of artists and his family encouraged his experiences with art from a young age. His mother, Dextra, is now a full-time potter and his great-great-grandmother, Nampeyo, was a famous Hopi potter. Though he credits his mother and grandmother for his artistic lineage, he also distinguishes himself as an artist. “I am an extension of them. I am also an experimenter. I am constantly seeking and finding new avenues of expression, but always remaining within the themes I’ve been working with: architecture, landscape, and spiritual imagery.”
Namingha received formal art training from the University of Kansas, the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He now lives in Santa Fe where he and his family operate Niman Fine Art Gallery.
What Inspired It
As a child, Namingha often attended Hopi ceremonies with his grandfather, Emerson Namingha. He says that the kachina [kuh-CHEE-nuh] ceremonies left the most lasting impression on him. He attended his first kachina ceremony with his grandfather when he was seven or eight years old:
"I was mesmerized by the appearance of the kachina dancers and their chanting as they moved. My grandfather explained to me that they came from the mountains west of Hopi known as the San Francisco Peaks. They were spirit messengers representing goodness, clouds for moisture, and a blessing for the people. He told me there are more than one hundred different kinds of kachinas, each representing something important in our lives, such as rain, snow, plant life, and animals."
In this painting, Namingha represents the movement, color, and energy of an eagle kachina dancer.
As an artist, Namingha blends contemporary art practices with his Hopi heritage through energetic brushstrokes and bright colors. While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he reached an important realization with regards to his artwork: “My time in the Corps gave me precious opportunity to think. I spent hours analyzing what my art should become, and one day it just came to me. Suddenly, I knew that my artistic mission was to transform the subject matter of Native American art and its customary realism into an abstract, almost minimal, form.”
The eagle represents strength and is an important part of the Hopi spiritual world. The Eagle Kachina acts as an intermediary between the physical world and the spirit world. Namingha’s eagle kachina stretches beyond the boundaries of the canvas—the feathers of the headdress are cut off at the top and the wings extend beyond the right and left sides.
Eagle feathers are used for healing purposes, prayer offerings, and in ceremonial dances.
Namingha simplifies the form of the eagle kachina with his broad, quick brushstrokes. He gives the idea of the figure without using clear forms or outlines.
Namingha combined brilliant colors and quick brushstrokes to suggest the movement, energy, and strength of the Eagle Kachina dance.
Notice the areas where it appears that Namingha has used different tools to move the paint around the canvas. He rakes plaster trowels over wet paint to create different textures.