Emmi Whitehorse

1957 / Navajo
"I have to go by an innate visual feel, if there is a balance. I arrive at a point where the work just feels finished; it feels balanced everywhere. If I turn it one way it feels right and if I turn it another way it feels right; in every which way the color, line, spatialness, all feel balanced. Then I think to myself the piece is finished....

"In 1993, my interest shifted towards the unnoticeable energy
which affects our lives greatly. I‘m referring to the microcosm underneath our feet. I am intrigued by the growth that occurs in the darkness, the dampness, the vermicular markings. I‘m merely magnifying nature. Use of memory, light, color, and visual symbology aide me to arrive at my intentions. My visual symbology are ambiguous and created to be at once Illuminating and obscure. Much like my memory, which comes back in bits and pieces."

Detail from "Planting Field" 1993
Emmi Whitehorse

Lucy. R. Lippard, author of many books on contemporary art and place:

"Two worlds are revealed in Emmi Whitehorse's art. Her paintings are consummate abstractions, welcome in the world of art for art's sake for their finely balanced forms and colors. They are also metaphysical views from the Navajo world. As such they offer to viewers from both worlds a glimpse of what art can mean.

According to the Diné (Navajos), the world was thought and sung into existence. The Navajo integration of mental and material life seems ideal for visual artists, or for all artists. In Whitehorse's art, bikêh hózhó, - an untranslatable and eternal quality of human and environmental harmony and blessedness - is combined with vivid motion, movement, change. Her paintings could be visualizations of the daily prayer:“Walk in beauty, speak in beauty act in beauty , live in beauty."

The concept of beauty bears a deeper significance in Native American, and especially Navajo, tradition than it does within the realm of Western aesthetics. It is cosmic rather than cosmetic. According to Gary Witherspoon, Navajos experience beauty by creating it. Like artists, they don't look outward for beauty but generate it within themselves and project it onto the universe.

Lucy R. Lippard, exhibition catalog "NEEZNÁÁ2 Emmi Whitehorse, Ten Years, Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe 1991

"Although her work has been compared to those of Georgia O' Keeffe, Arshile Gorky, and Paul Klee, all of these fall under the umbrella of affinity rather than influence. Whitehorse is adamant about her aesthetic independence. For all her command of modernism, she makes it clear that her source lie in her childhood around Whitehorse lake in Kin-Náh'-Zin (Standing Ruin), and in her grandmother's weaving.

In the work of the last three years or so, the forms are smaller, almost microscopic, filling the surface as they float in a hazy fluid medium that could be either air or water, the mirage of heat or a morning mist, the mottled wall of a rock alcove. Navajo elders say that weaving reenacts the creation of earth and sky.Whitehorse's swirling plant forms appear as though at the moment of emergence; the atmospheric ground resembles the amorphous mist of a beginning world. She seems to be painting an arena for creation, a fluid, prenatal world of transparencies and becomings."

Lucy R. Lippard; exhibition catalog "Sola" Emmi Whitehorse, Contemporary Southwest Images VII: The Stonewall Foundation Series, Tucson Museum of Art;1998

Emmi Whitehorse in her studio , 2005

Emmi Whitehorse, 1998