If you’re like me, you may have never heard of Navajo sandpaintings but now that you’ve seen one you gotta admit…they’re pretty incredible, huh?
The Navajo word for sandpaintings means “place where the gods come and go.”
Sandpaintings’ use four principal colors: white, blue, yellow, and black. They remind Navajos of the Four Sacred Mountains bordering their traditional homeland. These mountains and some of their associations are:
White Shell Mountain (Sierra Blanca Peak, Colorado): white-east-dawnhttp://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa083.shtml
Turquoise Mountain (Mount Taylor, New Mexico): blue-south-day
Abalone Shell Mountain (Mount Humphreys, Arizona): yellow-west-twilight
Coal Mountain (Hesperus Peak, Colorado): black-north-darkness
The sandpainting has been used for centuries in religious rituals, including healing ceremonies performed by Navajo medicine men. A sandpainting for a ceremony is made on the ground in the ceremonial hogan and destroyed at the end of the ritual.http://www.penfieldgallery.com/sandPaintings/sandPaintings.html
In order to preserve this long-standing tradition, in the late 1940’s Navajos began to create permanent sandpaintings, changing the design slightly to protect the religious significance when these paintings were shown publicly. Pictorial sandpaintings which reflect the Navajo environment and lifestyle are also made. Today sandpaintings are made by slowly trickling sand through the hand onto epoxy-covered particle boards, using sand made from naturally colored crushed rock, stone, and minerals for the different shades and colors.
While I don’t know the story behind this exact piece, I’m happy that I now know more about the rituals performed and history behind the Navajo sanpaintings.