According to a reference work, “The Navajo creation story traces the evolution of life through four previous worlds until the people reach the fifth and present world.”
Briefly, with help from the gods, Diné – the People – emerged from the last of the four worlds into the Fifth World, where they live today.
This painting beautifully evokes the vaporous atmosphere of those spiritual pre-worlds with intricate patterns and other-worldly colors.
Prominently placed, are four large cross-like forms which represent the four corners of each of the worlds; their extent.
Each “world” is in a different color, with different, but similar, designs in each of the arms.
Central to each world symbol is a spiral, signifying both water, and the path of life.
Both symbols, the cross shape and the spiral, still have spiritual meaning for the Navajo and Pueblo people, and are used extensively in jewelry, pottery, and other media.
Superimposed on these looming shapes, that seem to float in the cosmos, are repeated patterns like honeycombs, often linked by lines.
At each of the corners of the canvas, a round, lunar circle is painted in four different colors.
These seem to symbolize night and day, and the four seasons, as well as the suns of the four shadowy worlds.
The complex composition has layers and layers of designs, that seem to float in the disembodied atmosphere, some in the forefront, some in the background.
Counteracting the watery symbols, and palette of blues and purples, linear and ridged areas represent reptiles, and land.
The vibrant yellow-green of one “world” and its sun floats up to the front, literally, while the blue, white and black “worlds” seem to recede and/or inhabit a middle plane.
Almost hidden in the center of the painting, behind and part of each world symbol, is the ancient Navajo symbol for a whirling log.
In use for ages by Asian people, as well as the Navajo, this symbolizes well-being and good luck.
It was used by people as varied as the Celts and Druids, ancient Greeks, Norsemen, and even throughout central Europe.
Even the term “swastika” is derived from India; a Sanskrit word, meaning “Good Existence”.
The oldest known swastika was carved into an ivory figure 12,000 years ago, in the Ukraine!
Unfortunately, in our lifetime, the Nazis co-opted this age-old benevolent symbol, so it has become a sign of horror and tyranny.
This luminous painting incorporates the motif as the Navajo know it, a sign of well-being and good luck.
Aside from the symbolism inherent in the composition and design of the work, it stands alone as an abstract composition that is complex, with a multitude of patterns, and – above all – gorgeous, expertly painted color.
On its own, it evokes the mystery and beauty of the universe, in the hues of night, moonlight, and outer space.
A remarkable example of traditional symbolism turned into contemporary art, with amazing skill and artistic vision.