Emmi Whitehorse acquisition by the National Gallery of Art


March 06, 2023

Acquisition: Painting by Emmi Whitehorse

Emmi Whitehorse, "Fog Bank"
Emmi Whitehorse
Fog Bank, 2020
mixed media on paper on canvas
overall: 129.54 x 198.12 cm (51 x 78 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
William A. Clark Fund

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Laurie Tylec
phone: (202) 842-6355
e-mail: l-tylec@nga.gov

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Fog Bank (2020), a mixed-media work by Emmi Whitehorse (Diné, b. 1957). It is the first by this highly respected Native American artist to join the collection. Whitehorse’s artwork embodies the natural harmony she observes in the landscape at her home near Santa Fe, New Mexico. It conveys her intimate knowledge of a place, in keeping with Diné philosophy.

To make the color-saturated ground for this work, Whitehorse used her hands, as well as brushes, to rub pastel onto paper attached to a canvas. The ethereal ground in Fog Bank reads as an expansive atmospheric backdrop of sky or water. The first layer comprises ground chalk applied by hand, over which a fixative is applied. Whitehorse then used a turpentine wash, and a thinned oil stick application working on two, side by side, sheets of paper. Following years of observation of the desert and intuition, the artist draws with conte pencils and conte chalk. Whitehorse has described the marks and shapes as an “intricate language of symbols [that] refer to specific plants, people and experiences.” Made on a flat surface, the work is assigned neither a top nor a bottom, a strategy meant to avoid, as Whitehorse says, “the Western tendency to schematize.”

Whitehorse received her BA in painting at the University of New Mexico, where she later earned an MA in printmaking and a minor in art history. She has been the subject of solo shows at the Jocelyn Art Museum and Tucson Museum of Art, among others, and her work has been featured in group exhibitions at the National Museum of the American Indian, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Denver Art Museum. Whitehorse is represented in numerous public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.