Baje Whitethorne, Sr.
In a combination of narrative realism and abstraction, sometimes veering more to one than the other, the paintings of Baje Whitethorne, Sr. capture a rich sense of story and subject, place and memory. Today’s reality rich with yesterday’s history.
Whitethorne was born on the vast Navajo Reservation, in the mountains near Black Mesa and Shonto, Arizona. It is a location that overlooks the land his family still calls home: their peach orchard and collection of houses and other buildings that are home no matter where the artist lives. It is land where stories remain for a very long time and Whitethorne’s paintings draw from them. This within a successful career that literally began by accident: In the mid-‘70s, as a young man, Whitethorne was seriously injured at his job as a boilermaker. He had close to a year and a half of recuperation to consider his next move and returning to his previous work did not seem an option. His memories of how much he loved art and the encouragement his teachers gave him surfaced.
Over the following successful decades Baje Whitethorne, Sr. developed a distinctive style of painting with confident handling of his now-signature vibrant colors. His oil paintings reflect the rich culture and harmony of his Navajo homeland, all portrayed amid striking landscapes. Tales from his grandmother, stories she heard as a child of legends and the heroes of their people, are kept alive in his paintings as mystical energy informs each canvas no matter its realism depicted. Yei figures take their place in the same reality in which Whitethorne captures the hogans in which stories were told and the canyons in which they lived. His roiling skies extend the power and force of nature that overlooks all.
Sculpture is another important outlet for Baje Whitethorne, Sr. who casts his works in bronze. And, since childhood, when he and his brothers made up stories of their own on the way to their grandmother's house, storytelling has been another important element in his life. To date, Baje Whitethorne, Sr. has illustrated eight children's books, authoring two of them. He has been awarded the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the Cowboy Hall of Fame for his talents. Awards and honors for his fine art are numerous. In 2014 he was honored in Flagstaff, Arizona with the Mayor’s Legacy Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Arts.
The paintings of Baje Whitethorne, Sr. can be seen at museums, galleries and private collections around the world. His works were featured in “Six Navajo Masters” at the Booth Western Art Museum in 2019.