• Jasper Forest is magical in twilight, particularly the logs on stone pedestals

    Petrified Forest

    National Park Arizona

Artist: Shonto Begay

Begay paints while visitors watch
Shonto Begay paints during a day spent on the viewing porch at Painted Desert Inn.
Photo by T. Scott Williams/NPS
Begay shows a painting during a classroom presentation

Begay talks art at Northland Pioneer College, Holbrook Campus

Photo by T. Scott Williams/NPS

Artist Statement

A professional artist since 1983, Shonto spends his time painting and speaking to audiences of all ages. His art has been shown in more than 50 shows in galleries and museums including The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, the American Indian Contemporary Arts 's museum in San Francisco and Phoenix Art Museum.

Shonto attended Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools all over the Navajo Reservation and high school in Kayenta. He received an Associate's of Fine Art degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California College of Arts and Crafts.

Begay works while visitors peruse examples of his artwork

Begay sets up shop on the viewing porch of Painted Desert Inn, interacting with visitors and park staff.

Photo by T. Scott/Williams

He worked as a National Park Service ranger for ten years at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Navajo National Monument in Arizona.

Shonto speaks to audiences of all ages. He presents his personal history as a Navajo who happens to draw upon his culture in its modern context. He illustrates his talks with slides and prints and gives short art lessons to students.

"I have always had a love for art. From a very young age, I found excitement in the experience of drawing. To recreate facets of my universe in varying degrees has always been my life's adventure.

Begay stands next to petroglyph panel

Begay explores ancient American Indian history at Petrified Forest.

Photo by T. Scott Williams/NPS

I was born in a hogan in Shonto, Arizona. My parents are traditional Navajo people. My father is a medicine man, and my mother weaves rugs and herds sheep. My message is simple. Build bridges through the arts and stories of your culture, validate and share these visions and voices. Celebrate your personal identity through the arts. In my talks, I am as much a student as I am a teacher," says Shonto.

All below images of the artist's work are copyrighted by the artist and may not be copied, reproduced, or otherwise used without permission of the artist.


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