“House of the Clouds”

Zachariah Ben



Son and grandson of Navajo medicine men, who are also award-winning sand painting artists, Zach follows in their footsteps.

Having learned the art of sand painting “since (he) was a baby”, from his internationally known father, Joe Ben, Jr., Zach is learning the myriad chants and ceremonies that will qualify him as a full-blown medicine man, as well.

Like his father, and all traditional sand painters, he uses hand-sourced, hand-ground, natural materials, and fingers-only technique.

Still in his twenties, he is inspired by traditional subjects – just as his forebears – but depicts them in a strikingly contemporary way.

This mesmerizing sand painting is reminiscent of op-art, and other modern art, and even the geometric quilts of the Amish people.

Despite those associations, and the rigorous abstraction of the piece, for Zach, it is the story of clouds.

He explains, on the back: “The diamond center is day with day clouds. The maroon on the edges represent dawn. The orange is dusk. The black clouds dance on the four times of the day.”

He has manipulated the hand-ground rocks and mineral powders with assured and astounding artistry, creating wonderfully subtle hues and unexpected combinations.

That center diamond seems to come out at the viewer in three dimensions, floating above the background stripes.

Notice the exact edges of the elements, and remember this was done entirely with powdery sands, and fingers.

Sparkling specks of hematite add glittery texture, and the limpid blue of the natural lapis beautifully evokes the sky and water (from those black clouds).

Contemporary art meets age-old spiritual tradition, in this fascinating sand painting by a young, third-generation medicine man, and superb  contemporary artist.

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