Passage Arts is pleased to announce our first sale of works in collaboration with Natani Notah, an up-and-coming interdisciplinary artist who explores contemporary Native American identity through the lens of Diné (Navajo) womanhood. Inspired by acts of decolonization, environmental justice, Indigenous feminism, and futurism, she dares to imagine a world where Native sensibilities are magnified. Speech Bubbles debuts on November, 17th.
Passage Arts: What was your inspiration for creating this print series?
Natani Notah: When looking at old comic books and graphic novels, I noticed that the speech bubbles were almost always white. It got me to thinking about the construction of narratives over time and who has historically had the dominant voice in shaping our society’s values and politics.
For hundreds of years, People of Color (POC) have had to fight for the right to exist and have their voices heard. Now living in a digital age I can see the power of our collective voices, votes, and calls to action and how they are making a positive impact for future generations. As we continue to advocate for those equal rights within our respective communities, I see this print edition serving as a visual representation, amplification, and marking of that important change.
In many ways art and media are undeniable forces in the necessary movement towards racial justice. They are so effective because they have the ability to influence how we see ourselves and our community. In turn I hope this project resonates with many people and encourages critical thinking which is paramount for solving issues such as systemic racism in our country.
Passage Arts: What is the significance of the colors that you used in the series?
Natani Notah: The ink that I used is a combination of the colors red and brown to create a deep russet. To me, this mixture is significant because it reminds me of the earth. In Diné (Navajo) origin stories we emerged from the land and I have always appreciated this idea because it reminds me how close I am to mother earth. It reminds me to stay grounded and to remember the resiliency I come from. Diné moccasins are also made out of a similar colored suede and speaks to this relationship as well. To me the additional accent colors (of beige, black, purple, green, and blue featured in the edition) take on numerous associations and aim to allow the viewer opportunities to connect to the work and project their own interpretations. I strive to make art that encourages everyone to feel like they can relate to or understand a bit of where I am coming from. In some ways I see this as an offering or moment where we can establish common ground.
Passage Arts: What processes did you use to create the prints?
Natani Notah: The ink that I used is a combination of the colors red and brown to create a deep russet. To me, this mixture is significant because it reminds me of the earth. In Diné Navajo origin stories, we emerge from the land, and I’ve always appreciated this idea because it reminds me how close I am to Mother Earth. It reminds me to stay grounded and to remember the resiliency I come from. Diné moccasins are also made out of a similar color suede and speak to this relationship as well.
To me, the additional accent colors of beige, black, purple, green, and blue featured in the edition take on numerous associations and aim to allow the viewer opportunities to connect to the work and project their own interpretations. I strive to make art that encourages everyone to feel like they can relate to or understand a bit of where I’m coming from. In some ways, I see this as an offering, or moment where we can establish common ground.
There were various steps that I took to put together this print edition. I first started by sketching various outlines of speech bubbles. I transferred my favorite outline onto a piece of linoleum. I then proceeded to cut the shape out to create a stamp. I then rolled out woodblocking onto the stamp and played with printing it.
I found that by slightly moving the angle of the speech bubble each time I could animate it in interesting ways. The speech bubble took on more character and at a tilt it reminded me a lot of a bust or a profile or a silhouette of a person. This particular angle also made it feel as if it was yelling and that urgency seemed conceptually important.
Then I photographed that print and using Adobe Photoshop I multiplied it to create a digital composition that was then burned onto a screen. I mixed up my own ink and proceeded to hand pull twenty screenprints, which I let dry and then went in by hand with acrylic paint and filled in certain speech bubbles with different colors.
When I went in by hand with acrylic paint I started by filling some of the speech bubbles in entirely but as I continued to work on the series I started to think about what the act of filling in, covering up, or self-editing means. In turn, the acrylic accents started to take on a more circular shape and to me, they became beautiful stand-ins for a fingerprint, which further speks to conversations about individuality and identity.