Navajo Artist Sandpaintings: An Expression of American Fine Art

Navajo Sandpaintings are traditionally used to treat people afflicted by sickness. The actual artwork of the ceremonial sandpaintings is taboo and can cause sickness if not returned to the Earth. Navajo Medicine Men teach the Navajo healing ceremonies to an apprentice. Traditional healing ceremonies and images or symbols of the Sandpaintings are shared vocally from teacher to student. The meanings are also shared as each image or symbol represents the power of the Holy People. The Native American art or symbols are placed with great care and in order to keep with the tradition of the ceremony and to not upset the Holy People.

The meaning behind the Sandpaintings

Images on Sandpaintings that are sold are not traditional and the meanings and symbols are the interpretation from an artistic viewpoint. The images or symbols in sand paintings represent the sacred mountains, visions, and dances. Traditional Navajo Sandpainting represents a conduit for the Holy People to heal the patient. The Holy People restore the patient’s balance with the world and the universe.

 A fresh perspective of Sandpainting artist

The artist will use rainbows and or circles to depict the light or connection with the sun or moon. The rainbow represents a bridge of light from the sun or moon. Feathers represent the principle of sky and air. Stalks of corn or herbal plants represent the sustenance, healing, and fertility of the Earth. Some paintings will be adorned by representations of the Holy People. Adorned by the rainbow with Rectangle Faces, the symbols of the Holy People are shown around the center as symbols of prayer and protection. The center will sometimes have a face surrounded by light representing the sun. These are artistic interpretations of the non-traditional Sandpaintings. Real interpretations of the symbols and images are only known to the Navajo Medicine men that know these ceremonies.