July 21, 2012

Navajo/Pueblo Pac-Man painting

Ehren Natay: Pac-Man Meets Deer Dancer at Nativo Lodge Live Art Event

By Kelly KoepkeSacred symbols and pop culture icons merge to make a statement about American society in Ehren Natay’s painting, “Traditional Gaming.” Created as part of Natay’s one-week artist residency at Albuquerque’s Nativo Lodge hotel, the work indicts today’s obsession with passive entertainment: video, television and video games.

“Entertainment is important, but entertainment has become an obsession. It’s a distraction and escape from reality and the truths of this earth,” says Natay. “It’s brainwashing.”

At first glance, “Traditional Gaming” seems an homage to the video game Pac-Man. A closer inspection reveals ancient symbols Natay has learned through studying Pueblo pottery. Pac-Man itself, a yellow circle missing a quadrant, reminded Natay of the symbol for the bee plant, a frequent design element in Santo Domingo pottery.

“All the symbols I’ve used in the painting are sacred,” says Natay, who is of Navajo and Santo Domingo descent. “The clouds, the rainbow, the watermelon. The ghosts in the video game I’ve made into the holy spirits of the Navajo inside a kiva.”
Comment:  Santo Domingo Pueblo recently changed its name to Kewa Pueblo.

For more on Native pop art, see Veregge's Superhero "Totems" and Jetsonorama's Larger-Than-Life Art.

Below:  "A detail from Traditional Gaming by Ehren Natay."

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