An artist with wide-ranging skills, Redwing Nez was raised on the vast Navajo reservation in northern Arizona and began painting after high school. He trained as a traditional sand painter before attending the University of Northern Arizona. Now known for his oil paintings, murals and illustrations, it is his Contemporary oil and acrylic paintings that hang in Turquoise Tortoise Gallery.
In November 1994 Southwest Art magazine took note of the growing career of Redwing Nez and profiled the artist in their pages. His career continued to unfold with success and recognition as Redwing Nez showed his work, and won numerous awards, at Southwest art shows including the prestigious Santa Fe (NM) Indian Market and the Museum of Northern Arizona.
Significant commissions also came his way including for Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Redwing Nez was commissioned to paint “Dwellers of the First World,” a 52” x 48” oil on canvas painting depicting the Anasazi who lived in Mesa Verde circa 1200 A.D. For the 2012 State of Arizona Centennial, Redwing Nez was commissioned to paint the 60-foot long mural that now graces the wall along Centennial Walkway facing Flagstaff’s historic train station, below Route 66, where the Flagstaff Visitor Center is located.
In the project of selecting a Centennial artist for the significant, and very public, assignment “Redwing’s submission was absolutely the very, very best,” said acclaimed Grand Canyon artist Bruce Aiken, who chaired the commission. “He’s a very accomplished muralist and a highly skilled painter, and we’re thrilled to have him as the centennial muralist for Flagstaff.” In the mural, the largest Nez had ever done, the cultural, historic and natural aspects of what it means to live in Flagstaff are depicted.
At Turquoise Tortoise Gallery the artist’s Contemporary works take center stage. These complex works draw from the artist’s Diné (Navajo) heritage and include imagery and symbols such as birds and corn stalks, symbols of the four seasons, rainbows and lightening. In the visually striking canvasses cornstalks frequently play a central role. “We worship white corn,” Redwing Nez explains, “morning corn, the corn of life. It’s a prayer, a chant.”
Redwing Nez currently works out of his studio in the now-defunct Bita Hochee Trading Post, built around 1870 on the Navajo reservation. He knows intimately the red rocks and buttes that define this striking area: As a child he ran sheep through the pass and let them graze while he ran to Bita Hochee to buy an ice cream or soda. The once thriving center of so much social activity for the Diné was slated to have its neglected buildings razed but Redwing Nez single-handedly stood off the bulldozer. It is his strongest desire that the buildings be restored and reborn as a non-profit artistic and cultural center that can, once again, become an integral part of life for the Diné people.