Protective Plains Spirit Painting

Benjamin Ahn-Hia-Ohm Nelson


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Painting – and winning awards – since he was 7 years-old, this well-known artist is inspired both by his mother’s Kiowa heritage and his father’s Navajo culture. Art is in his genes: father Bennie Nelson, Yellowman, and uncle L. Eugene Nelson are notable prize-winners in painting and jewelry, respectively.

This large and powerful painting depicts  an encampment of Kiowa tepees, with a crescent moon and stars hovering in the heavens. Dotted lines radiate from the crescent moon, symbolizing its luminosity. The central figure is a large portrait of a warrior, with beautifully painted regalia. With a serious, implacable expression, he hovers over the tepees, keeping them, and their inhabitants, safe.

Eagle feathers adorn his head, his long hair is tied with beads and fur, and the same crescent form with radiating dotted lines is seen on his chest. He seems to be protecting the sleeping village from sunset to sunrise. The red and blue colors in his breastplate also reflect night and day. The tender gold of the background also contrasts with the moon and stars designs, emphasizing sun and moon, day and night.

The combination of sketched motifs and carefully detailed ones, is interesting. There is a contrast between solid, filled-in elements, like the stars, moon and spirit himself, and the linear, outlined tepees. Carrying solid forms down throughout the composition, are the decorations on each tepee. Each one has its own, distinctive design in a medley of solid colors that echo the hues seen throughout the painting.

A bold, forceful painting that is also mellow and decorative. Notice that the feathers, and stars continue around the edge of the painting. There is no need to frame this, it is ready to hang. An unusually large piece by this established, prize-winning artist, this would look spectacular at the head of a staircase, or in a double-height room.

Additional information


Acrylic Paint, Canvas


48" high x 23 5/8" wide x 1 1/2" thick