Bilá Ashdlá (Five Fingered People) at Monorchid is a vibrant collection of imagery and stories told through the eyes of local artist Jeff Slim. Being of Diné decent, Slim’s work explores his Navajo roots, pulling inspiration from traditional imagery as well as contemporary culture. He portrays proud women weaving and harvesting crops, but with pulsating hues zig zagging across their bodies and into the backgrounds. Familiar iconic symbols like the wolf stand triumphantly, like in Star Bound Reflection, and head to head with the modern Diné woman, complete with blue skin and septum piercing. This mesh of past and present takes solid form in Slim’s painting Be Elusive But Don’t Walk Far. In this portrait, a person is contently laying down on a hardwood floor, sporting an animal’s body as their lower half. This mythical being evokes oral stories of the past, but the bright colors and popping patterns suggests a contemporary setting. Using vintage photographs of his family along with his current family and friends, Slim combines these two worlds into resilient images of his past, present, and perhaps his future.
Using acrylic paint and aerosol, Jeff Slim artwork consumes the space it inhabits, its endless patterns and colors invading the subjects. In all of the artist’s work, the backgrounds hold layers or shapes, patterns, and colors, which flatten the composition, bringing you as a viewer closer to the subject. The viewer is invited to step forward and engage with Slim’s family and friends. These incredibly mesmerizing patterns that live in the background of Slim’s artwork come forward to devour the subject in the two paintings Floating in a Peculiar Way and Chant of Ever Circling Skeletal Family. Displayed by themselves against the far back wall of the gallery, the two large scale works each depict a mysterious figure. Both figures are posing in dramatic ways with what appears to be a patterned cloth wrapped tightly around both of their faces. The figures are left unidentifiable, uncertain. They are being intertwined in the entanglement of swirling colors and patterns around them. Perhaps this uncertainty comes from the future unknown, undoubtedly consuming us as the patterns consume Slim’s figures.
Jeff Slim’s wonderfully thought-provoking imagery interprets his own connection to his Navajo ancestry as well as its relation to his contemporary life, exploring his current family and friends while delving into his past. Five Fingered People will be on display in Shade Gallery at the Monorchid from May 6 – May 29.