Shonto Begay
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Map of My Heart

Solo Exhibit

Museum of Northern Arizona

June 22 through October 26, 2014


Many faces, stories and years squinting into the sun looking for lost sheep are captured in Shonto Begay’s Map of My Heart exhibition at the Museum of Northern Arizona opening June 22, 2014.

Autobiographical in nature, the exhibition is rooted with Begay’s “Tree of Seven Hearts” signature painting inspired by his traditional hogan birthplace on the Navajo Nation. The painting is full of surprises, including seven hearts painted among the night scene. Lovers cast moon shadows on the base of a sturdy juniper tree rising toward a star-studded sky.

This collection spans 30 years of Begay’s career as a professional artist and celebrates his close relationships with his family, culture and the land he calls home.

“It is a great honor and a very important plateau in any artist’s career to let the public look back on the road they travelled and see the beauty and obstacles that came with getting here,” he says.

Begay’s constant struggle for balance and harmony between his natural, ancient world and contemporary cultures is seen in his celebrated work. MNA’s exhibition features his mythic heroes, the insides of U.S. Government boarding schools, dusty rodeo days, family portraits and colorful landscapes. He paints in small brush strokes that repeat like the words of a Navajo blessing prayer. His journey reminds us we are all guardians of the Earth.

“Begay’s work is an outstanding perspective on contemporary Navajo life and culture integrated with great respect for his traditions and stories,” says Alan Petersen, MNA’s Curator of Fine Art.

Begay, 60, was born Diné (Navajo) and is one of 16 children. His mother is a traditional Navajo rug weaver from the Bitter Water Clan and his father was a medicine man born to the Salt Clan. Begay grew up herding sheep in Kletha Valley, located in Shonto, Arizona.

“I was surrounded by Hozho (beauty), including the sounds of songs and healing chants accompanied with stories from elders,” Begay says. “From a very young age, I found excitement in recreating facets of my universe in varying images.”

A professional artist since 1983, he has written and illustrated more than a dozen books, including, Shonto Begay, Navajo Visions and Voices Across the Mesa. His award-winning artwork is collected and in galleries and museums worldwide. He speaks to audiences of all ages about culture, sustainability and creativity.

Begay attended Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools on the Navajo Reservation and high school in Kayenta, Arizona. He received an Associates of Fine Art degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California College of Arts and Crafts. He worked a decade in the 1980's as a National Park Service ranger.

The Map of My Heart exhibit is from June 22 through October 19. A museum fundraiser, a Map of My Heart Gala Dinner featuring Begay is 5 p.m. Saturday, June 21. He will speak and is donating his painting “Tree of Seven Hearts” to the Gala’s silent auction. A Members’ Brunch is 10 a.m. Sunday, June 22. A public Gallery Talk with the artist is at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 22 and is included with admission. Begay’s giclees, books and notecards are available in the MNA Bookstore. The Museum of Northern Arizona at 3101 N. Fort Valley Road.









Shonto Begay

Diné Artist, Actor, Writer, Educator


Mother with Sheep in Canyon
acrylic on canvas
Dibe' too' Shima', Biko' go'ya'
Negotiating sacred sites and Mysteries
always in life . .

© 2014 Shonto Begay

Tree of Seven Hearts, 2014, acrylic on board
Soos Tsid A'Je' T,his.
I am exploring grandfather trees in various lights and messages.
Alight just above my camp.

© 2014 Shonto Begay

Citation on the Green
acrylic on canvas
Hool, tsoii' ta' , ha'ne' haaz'lii'
I had to use the Green paints neglected.
A park of the mind with pockets of suspended dramas.

© 2014 Shonto Begay





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