Zachariah Ben, son of the famed Joe Ben Jr., is following in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one.
Not only is he learning the traditional ways from Joe, a Navajo medicine man, as well as internationally celebrated sand painter, he is learning the artistic ways as well – and very well, indeed.
From the precise lines, to the beautiful, natural minerals that he grinds into the fine sand for his paintings by hand, his talent and technique are unmistakable hallmarks of his family’s name.
Zach likes to keep to traditional motifs, in general, but depicts them in modern, even abstract designs.
Here is what he has written on the back of this piece: “The blue is the lightning coming down & the red is lightning going back up to the sky. the sound is dancing off the lightning. The rain drops reflect the lightning ‘flash’.”
Here is what we say: Dynamic in design, with vivid diagonals dominating the piece, this is a wonderful evocation of the effect of lightning against a dark night sky.
Using only natural, almost all traditional, materials (not hematite), hand-ground to a fine powder, the artist has created a design that mimics the heart-stopping appearance of brilliant lightning, amid a raging storm, or at night.
Although traditional in basic technique, the creation of three-dimensional forms, in the black raindrops, and in the bars of lightning themselves, is not.
But, that is very effective, as is the sliver of glittering hematite inserted (by hand, remember!) between the russet and orange lines. and the turquoise and sky blue lines, opposite them.
As dramatic and thrilling as the real thing, or an abstract painting, this is a new style of sand painting, and it is terrific.