The Ben family of sand painters are world-renowned: for generations, they have been both traditional medicine men and sand painting artists.
Joe Ben, Jr. and his son Zach are modern proponents, often departing from the strictly traditional to create modern interpretations.
This sand painting introduces a new Ben to the Native art world: Zach’s little sister, Najhozhoni – age 12!
Yes, this twelve-year-old has created a lovely trio of Navajo spirits, the blue-faced Yebechei’s, with uncanny precision, and a lyrical way of blending the sandy colors.
Square heads indicate female dancers, the round head is a male.
As is traditional, these figures are almost, but not quite, authentic, so the spirits are not used frivolously.
These Yebechei’s dance in the Nightway ceremony, held over nine winter nights.
The young artist has beautifully evoked the ambience of the winter night, lit by a bonfire, with breaths steaming in the cold.
There is a lovely fluidity about the background, which surrounds the figures in misty swirls of light and dark colors.
Stepped rain signs form the left margin of the picture, each with a cross- a star symbol that indicates the blessings of the dance should extend to all four corners of the world.
Each of the elements in this sand painting was formed by releasing hand-ground grains of the various materials through the artist’s hand and fingers.
The precision and control are truly remarkable, especially for a 12-year-old!
Without her declaration of age, on the back, no one would believe this was not created by an experienced, mature artist.
Big brother, Zach Ben, is responsible for the frame, and it looks like Little Sister has a glorious future ahead of her.
Another Ben sand painting artist emerges!