I Stand in the Center of the Good: Interviews with Contemporary Native American Artists

By Lawrence Abbott | Go to book overview

Emmi Whitehorse

Navajo

A sense of quiet and calm exists in the fields of Emmi Whitehorse's complex and interactive images. The viewer is drawn beyond the surface of the painting into the layers and depths of color and form. Her technique of layering materials by hand and transforming common objects and personal experiences creates, for Lucy Lippard, "the overall impression . . . of lightness, openness, and activity." 1 Yellows, blues, and reds dominate, creating the horizon for her recurrent images: triangles, leaf- and comb-like shapes, birds, White Shell Woman, floating men's trousers. All these and more constitute the personal iconography of Emmi Whitehorse.

These images derive from the specifics of her life, but are not literal presentations of facts. She frees the images and memories from their personal associations in order to recombine and reformulate them and place them in a new context. Recent works like The Black Cup ( 1989), Musical Dialogue ( 1990), Composition for Scott ( 1990), and Water's Edge ( 1990), for example, use many of the same forms but in different pictorial spaces. Because Whitehorse does not work on an easel, such terms as "top" and "bottom" become fluid, undefined, creating her characteristically ethereal look. About her work, and Native art generally, she has said: "It's hard for them [viewers] to

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