Hozhoni Artists

Established 1995, Flagstaff AZ

Hozhoni Artists is a small program (part of a larger organization) that was founded in 1995 by its current director and specializes in providing social services to the Native American population in Flagstaff, including a respite/life skills day program and residential services. This studio has about 20 full-time artists in attendance, who produce fascinating and incredible work that often combines Native American traditions and aesthetics with those of Contemporary Art and daily life with a profound sense of authenticity.

The studio workspace is spread across several rooms in two buildings, the larger one being designated to the most focused artists. The artists are supported to draw and paint, weave, and create some sculptural objects using paper or wood. The staff working in the Hozoni studio do not necessarily have a creative background at all, but in spite of this Hozoni seems to do very well to maintain a progressive, non-invasive approach to supporting and facilitating the artists. The format is an open studio, each artist has a support staff assigned to them, and staff to artist ratios are determined based on needs that aren’t necessarily related to art making. Traditional Native American techniques and aesthetics aren’t taught in the studio either – any traces of this found in the work have been passed down by family members at home.

A new dynamic of the Outsider or Contemporary Art debate for these studios arises here. Like the work coming from Progressive Art Studios, Native American art may also be Outsider or Contemporary, but this distinction is typically more definitive. Outsider Native American works are historical artifacts, or works made strictly within the complex creative traditions of Native American cultures for the sake of continuing those traditions, whereas Contemporary Native American art is made by Native American artists (such as Jeffrey Gibson, Wendy Red Star, or Brad Kahlhamer) who re-examine Native American identity and aesthetics through liberated practices of the contemporary fine art world. Hozhoni’s artists fall clearly within the latter category.

  Painting by Edward Haswood

Painting by Edward Haswood

For instance, Edward Haswood’s paintings and drawings reflect a unique combination of folklore from both his Navajo and Hopi heritages. He’s very familiar with traditional Native American art present in his family life and community, and there’s a significant market for it in Flagstaff. What Edward does, though, isn’t traditional at all, it’s something new and a distinct while maintaining a nuanced presence of traditional Native American imagery.

Miranda Delgai is a fantastic artist who comes from a family of traditional Navajo textile weavers. She  works with wool on a traditional Navajo loom, but incorporates unconventional, even taboo imagery. The piece below is unusual - in Native American culture owls are an omen of bad luck and imagery of them is normally avoided.

 

  Textile by Miranda Delgai

Textile by Miranda Delgai

Hozhoni exhibits their artists’ work and host events in a gallery space adjacent to the main studio, but its location isn’t conducive to regular foot traffic. In the future, Hozhoni hopes to establish an exhibition space in downtown Flagstaff. The experience of this gallery would be intriguing since they would be accessing buyers of Native American art, but presenting work that’s much more contemporary.