The Navajo and Hopi Indians of the southwestern United States have a rich heritage of art. Much of the art created by Latter-day Saint Native American artists shows the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the life of the artist. It is a sacred connection that the Navajo of northern New Mexico and Arizona describe as hozho. Hozho encompasses everything considered “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (see A of F 1:13). Hozho is a life in balance with God, with nature, and with one’s fellowmen. Navajo artist Harrison Begay says, “As a Latter-day Saint, I find that the best place to be immersed in hozho is in the temple.”
The Hopi Indians of northeastern Arizona believe that the name of their tribe signifies that they worship the Creator. “We are living on consecrated land,” says one Hopi artist. “We believe that the Lord gave us this land in trust and that we must someday make an accounting to him for it.”
A selection of art by Latter-day Saint Navajo and Hopi artists is shown in these pages. Many of the artists represented here also have a lifetime of service in the Church as spiritual leaders in their communities.
“An artist can take objects that do not have life in them, and by using various artistic techniques, create a composition that does. Whether the composition is realistic or abstract, two-dimensional or three-dimensional, it comes alive.
“If I were asked to give my advice to Latter-day Saint artists everywhere, I would tell them to first live the gospel of Jesus Christ to its fullest. We shouldn’t create works for our own glory, but for the glory of God. If we do receive recognition for our work, we must never forget that our talent came from our Heavenly Father.”
William Hatch, Navajo painter
“I made a pot depicting the three degrees of glory [see D&C 76]. I based the design on traditional Kiva Indian murals and paintings that told a similar story. I think our ancestors must have known the story as part of their heritage.
“When I’m creating pottery, I am able to call upon that heritage and yet not lose my Latter-day Saint principles.
“I compare my development as a member of the Church to the sanding and polishing that goes into perfecting a piece of pottery. Sometimes I think I get ‘sanded’ and ‘polished’ as I strive for perfection. In the final stages of creation, the pot is purified by fire; the day will come when the whole earth will be purified by fire.”
Les Namingha, potter
“Native Americans of the Southwest have a rich cultural heritage. Their values and their way of life, reflected in their art, is closely aligned with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This sacred connection strengthens family bonds and enriches the quality of life.
“There are many beautiful beliefs in Southwest Indian culture that are also part of the gospel. Some of these beliefs include a reverence for the Creator, a love of family, and a family bond that extends to those who have gone before and those yet to come.
“I think it very important that we create art in companionship with the Spirit, so that art leads us to raise our eyes to the Creator.”
John P. Rainer Jr., flute maker and musician
“In the beginning, the earth was created in spiritual beauty. The stars and the firmament were brought together, and the sun was made to light the day, the moon to light the night. All was created in beauty.
“The ‘old ones,’ my ancestors, long ago prayed that they might walk in beauty. I inherited that desire. It means that I strive to walk in beauty, to walk in happiness, and to walk with care and consideration for others. I try to live righteously and think good thoughts. By so doing I will enjoy hozho.”