Published on February 10, 2013 by Casey
Joe Ben Jr. was born in 1958 to the Tacheeni Clan (Red Line Running in Water Clan) in Shiprock, New Mexico. As a child, Joe took part in traditional Navajo ceremonies that used sandpaintings. These early experiences inspired his love of art at a young age.
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Joe Ben Jr. combines his reservation training with international teaching experience to create exceptional Navajo sandpaintings. The fine details in his designs are created by applying the just the right amount of pulverized pigment from between his index finger and thumb to a neutral base of sand below. He exercises deep control in his movements to create the lines and shapes that define his artwork. Hand gestures that mimic the distribution of corn meal in prayer result in impressive, soft color blending.
Joe’s sandpaintings are distinguished by the intense of colors created by using natural materials from around the world. Joe uses lapis (blue) from Afghanistan, diamond (sparkle) from Australia, galena (silver sparkle) from Morocco, coal (black) from the Rour Corners region, gypsum (white) from New Mexico, red and gold ochre from the south of France, azurite and chrysocolla (blue green) from southern Arizona, and numerous other greens, browns and reds found on the Hopi and Navajo reservation.
Joe describes his art: “Through the art of sandpainting, based on the cycle of nature, I am capable of communicating my feelings and my ideas. It is through these sand paintings of Mother Earth, of Father Sky and their children (the trees, the rivers, the birds, the divinities and us), that I can imitate the powerful work of nature. I try to use nature’s aesthetic work as a part of my life and to add dimension to my existence. Finally, I hope with this art to encourage people to consider the aesthetics of nature, because that is what art is all about…. Nature, what else is there?”