March 2022

POTD: Sign of the Times

Sign of the Times
Shonto, Arizona

The Navajo people seemed to take masking during the pandemic more seriously than any area I’ve seen off reservation, and for good reason as they’ve suffered a very high rate of fatalities from covid-19. Their concern and diligence is shown in some of the photos posted on the abandoned buildings on Highway 160. Some information I read about the Painted Desert Project that produced and installed them seemed to indicate it was started during the pandemic both as a way of expressing concern but also as a means of giving some folks a safe program to be a part of during the pandemic shutdowns and restrictions.


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POTD: Rez Dog and Friends

Rez Dog and Friends
Shonto, Arizona

The western part of U.S. Highway 160 in or near the Navajo Reservation contains a number of abandoned structures, mostly commercial in nature. No longer serving their original purposes, they all seem to have been repurposed into art canvases and message boards. Much of what appears on these buildings is really just impromtu scrawled messages or crude drawings interspersed with more planned, free-form work by random graffiti artists. But some very large areas of a number the buildings contain what are obviously formally planned works of art (often containing a political message). Included are quite a few large reproductions of black and white photos which I very much enjoyed viewing. It is interesting that while the less formal graffiti seems to be fair game for painting over or defacing with new work, at least so far the larger works have remained untouched. It turns out that the large works are part of The Painted Desert Project whose mission statement states: “The Painted Desert Project connects public artists with communities through mural opportunities on the Navajo Nation.”

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POTD: Something to Think About

Something to Think About
Green Valley, Arizona

This is the last remaining Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile silo in the U.S. that hasn’t been filled in. It is complete with it’s rocket, but sans the nuclear warhead that it used to hold. (The silo door has been immobilized half-open so that it cannot be launched and so that the Russians can see it’s warhead is missing, as evidenced by the open hatch in the nosecone. At the time we viewed it, it seemed to be an oddly quaint remnant of a not-so-pleasant past. Now, with the war in the Ukraine and Putin’s wild threats, that past seems not so much in the past after all. While the Titan II missiles with their nuclear warheads are no longer a part of the U.S. military arsenal, there are plenty of other nuclear options available on both sides of the current conflict. The bad old days seem to be back again.

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POTD: Going Nowhere to Get Everywhere

Going Nowhere to Get Everywhere
Patagonia, Arizona

It’s hard to tell from this photograph, but the top of that ladder is maybe 20-30 feet from the nearest branch on that tree, or anything else for that matter. So climbing it would get you nowhere except, of course, to the top of the ladder. But on top of the ladder is a small platform with a satellite or similar type of internet receiver, from which you can get pretty much anywhere you’d like to be, in a virtual sense anyway.

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POTD: Many Grey Hills

Many Grey Hills
Tonalea, Arizona

There is a well-known style of Navajo rugs called two-grey hills. They originated on Navajo land in the northwest corner of New Mexico. I have no idea if there are in fact two prominent grey hills there that the rug style is named after. But quite a bit further west (still on Navajo land) there are many grey hills, some of which are shown here. (While it is true that this image has been converted to monochrome, so the hills would appear grey even if they weren’t in real life. But in this case, the grey tone of these hills matches the true color very closely.)

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POTD: Harsh Words

Harsh Words
Twin Arrows Trading Post, Arizona

Another comment from the same graffiti artist as yesterday. I believe the solution proposed here was tried back in the day and while there were occasional successes (e.g. Custer’s defeat), in the end it was pretty much all for naught. I doubt a new effort along that lines would be any more successful today. The hopes for adequate redress of the issue of stolen land surely must come by other means. Or maybe this isn’t about redress at all, rather just payback. (@firstse7en is the Instagram handle for an indigenous artist who has some interesting, often harsh, takes on the current issues relating to indigenous and other often marginalized groups.)

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