“Day Star” Sand Painting

Zachariah Ben



This young man is a son, nephew, and grandson of medicine men.

He follows in their footsteps, but in his own way, combining elements of tradition with a modern sensibility.

This piece, like all his work, follows tradition in technique: hand grinding natural materials to create the various colors, and applying them by hand, through his fingers.

Like his father, the internationally renowned sand painter, Joe Ben, Zach often mixes materials for shaded, and more subtle, effects.

Look at the bright turquoise ruff, around the Yebeche’i’s neck, and the grey feather on his head, for examples.

The artist has written his explanation of the subject matter, on the back of the piece.

This Navajo spirit, which Zach terms a “deity”, contains both day and night, sky and earth, in the colors of his face.

The cross forms are stars, according to the artist, visible even in the daytime.

Remembering that every detail of this sand painting was applied by hand – or fingers – notice the extraordinary precision of each element, no matter how small.

For instance, the turquoise and “coral” heishi earrings, the dots and spines of the feathers and the individual lines of the ruff.

A modern interpretation of an ancient, spiritual art, reverently continued by a new generation.

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