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Elemental Forms: The Art of Dan and Arlo Namingha

June 17 through September 23, 2007


A powerfully gifted and internationally-acclaimed contemporary painter and sculptor, Dan Namingha had his first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Northern Arizona in 1977. An exhibit of 45 new paintings and sculptures, Elemental Forms: The Art of Dan and Arlo Namingha, opens June 17 through September 23, 2007, completing a thirty-year journey for the father and introducing his son, an already recognized sculptor, to northern Arizona. (right: Dan Namingha, Dreamscape #16, acrylic on canvas 48 x 48 inches. © 2007 Dan Namingha)

The work of both artists alludes to Hopi cosmology and symbology, affirming and extending their Hopi/Tewa identity, while breaking with the traditional limits of Indian art through modern minimalism.

"Dan Namingha's paintings and sculptures are among the most powerful abstract artwork being created in the Southwest today," says MNA Director Dr. Robert Breunig. "His abstract figures allude to the timeless nature of life on the Colorado Plateau and the unity of the spiritual and physical worlds."

About his work, Dan Namingha says, "Through a process of fragmentation and assembly I visually condense my subject matter to convey the greatest artistry with minimal elements." Landscapes and ancient Hopi symbols, ancestors from his homeland, spirit messengers, katsinas carrying blessings, cloud people, and other abstracted spiritual imagery take form among his signature surface textures.

"I see myself as a kind of bridge between worlds," he reflects, "trying to find that center line of balance. It's not always easy, but I don't think it's easy for any human being." He is fascinated with dualities and the point where they meet -- physical and metaphysical, night and day, dark and light, life and death, human and divine -- and with recurring themes of katsinas, First Mesa, and the Hopi migration story.

Alan Petersen, MNA's Guest Curator of Fine Art says,"Namingha's close relationship with MNA dates to his first exhibit here in 1977, when his iconic painting Walpi Night Dance was the signature image for the Hopi Craftsmen show. Today, he is an acknowledged master. The complimentary concepts of duality and balance are important themes in his work and he expresses them through a highly refined, modernist vocabulary drawn from his heritage. His imagery is strong and elegant, emerging from richly textured surfaces that evoke the earth and atmosphere of his homeland." (right: Arlo Namingha, Chanters #7, bronze 15 x 25.5 x 14.25 inches. © 2005 Arlo Namingha)


About Dan Namingha

Born in 1950 in Keams Canyon, Arizona, Dan Namingha now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

His formative years were spent in Polacca and Hano (also called Tewa Village, a distinct community within the greater Hopi society) on First Mesa. Long expanses of land in all directions are omnipresent, as are mountain and mesa formations on the horizon. An even larger, expansive sky sits heavy above, sometimes with cloud formations. References to this homeland are common in his work.

Dan Namingha studied at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, and at The American Academy of Art in Chicago. He began showing his work in 1972 and has participated in over 60 exhibits. His work is now at the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, the Sundance Institute, the Wheelwright Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, the Heard Museum, the Palm Desert Museum, and numerous foreign museums, including the British Royal Collection in London and several U.S. embassies.

Namingha opened his own gallery in Santa Fe in 1990, Niman Fine Art, which he runs with his family. In an effort to take control of the direction of his career, he has circumvented the traditional art system's pigeonholing or nonrecognition of Native or regional artists.


About Arlo Namingha

Dan Namingha's eldest son Arlo began his life as an artist in his father's studio, learning both by observing and working quietly on his own interest in three-dimensional form, which led to his studies in drafting and design. His current sculptural works combine wood, clay, stone, and fabricated and cast bronze to create a contrast.

Arlo Namingha shares, "My work not only reflects the figurative aspect of my Native people and their surroundings, but also cultural images, landscapes, and symbolism. Always exploring new avenues of possibilities, the work possesses a foundation, but moves constantly in different directions, investigating the boundaries of the non-objective. I minimize literal images, not to recreate them, but to draw from them and my personal experiences."

After managing Niman Fine Art for ten years, Arlo is now focusing on his art career. He has had recent exhibits in the Southwest and on the East Coast, and his works are included in many private and museum collections. 


Both Naminghas have a far-reaching artistic lineage. Great-great-grandmother Nampeyo (1860-1942) was a famous Hopi potter who restored the art of Hopi pottery making. Nampeyo's granddaughter and Dan Namingha's mother, Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo, crafted a pottery style that was more reflective of modern Hopi times. These role models, as well as the art and ideas the Namingas share in Elemental Forms: The Art of Dan and Arlo Namingha, express the Tewa trait of a willingness to experiment with new things, while protecting the sanctity of Hopi sacred images.

The public is invited to attend an exciting Southwestern summer event with the artists at the Museum of Northern Arizona on Saturday, June 16. This gala fundraising event to celebrate the opening of the Elemental Forms exhibit includes a reception, dinner, exhibit preview, gallery sales, and a live auction of Namingha art. Fee. Reservations are required and accepted starting May 1. For further Gala information, call Cassie Dakan at 928/774-5211, ext. 225.  

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© Copyright 2007 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.