Elevate Difference

Artistic Native American Postcards

Transformation and prayer highlight Swaneagle Harijan’s art. Her paintings are rich with color and focus on women in a many states of being. We have grandmothers lifting their grandchildren to the moon in “Grandmother Dineh Supporting Future Generations," a white woman with a child of darker skin and blue eyes fleeing as a fairy catches the mother’s tears in “Mother and Child Flee" and more transformational characters as a woman with wings and flowing feather-like hair lifting a leaf to a thumbnail of a moon in “Deva of Herbs.”

The common denominator of these paintings rests not only in the vibrant reds and blues that pervade the sample of work I was able to see, but also in the depiction of women as they are connected to their environments. The settings are natural, but otherworldly; I couldn’t tell you where these women are, though the rust reds and yellow and orange landscapes might suggest the American West. The figures of these pieces are shown in natural worlds, the moon or sun are present in every single postcard and, in many of them, the women are lifting their eyes to these entities, as if in prayer.

Many of the movements presented in the paintings are painted with brush strokes that are also in perpetual movement. For example, in the painting “Mountain Mother Race Mixer” the trees seem to be woven and leaves curl forward, mimicking the shape of the woman’s wings and the manner in which she’s holding the child. Swaneagle’s paintings provide spaces where women are diverse in terms of both color, age and even their bodies.

Written by: Lisa Bower, February 26th 2007