Diné artist Gilmore Scott’s dynamic and vivid geometric paintings of Bears Ears and monsoon thunderstorms are tied to his land and culture.
“The landscape was always a part of my work,” says artist Gilmore Scott. His paintings of the land vibrate with jagged geometries and dazzling colors. Thunderheads burst in gradients of blue, lilac, and magenta over distant, golden mesas and plains dotted with low shrubs, accentuated by long purple shadows. The sky and the land in Scott’s paintings pulse with pattern, with their own order, dynamism, and benevolent, majestic force.
Geometric elements have appeared in Scott’s work since an early age, something he attributes to the traditional Diné rug weaving designs that he grew up with, and the stories that accompanied them.
Scott grew up in Blanding, Utah and studied art at Utah State University. While in school, he took a summer job as a wildland firefighter, a “seasonal” position that swiftly developed into a permanent job. “It was magical,” he says of surveying the land from the air or standing on a cliff’s edge after a lightning storm, looking for signs of fire. “I got a whole different perspective of the land.”
Scott now paints full-time and lives near Montezuma Creek, Utah on the Navajo Nation, in the neighborhood of Bears Ears National Monument. “Our creation stories are tied to that particular mountain range,” he says. The twin buttes of Bears Ears reappear as a motif in Scott’s paintings, tying them to place and to culture.
“Being a part of the land, being aware of your communities has always been at the forefront of who we are out here,” Scott says.
Scott’s work will be exhibited at Indian Market in Santa Fe this year, and recent paintings have been acquired by the Field Museum in Chicago and the St. George Art Museum of Utah. While museum recognition of Native artwork has been a slow process, he acknowledges that the efforts of some Indigenous artists and curators to push their artwork into that realm is coming to fruition. “I think there’s a voice that’s finally being heard. I hope people that see and view our artwork see that.”