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Moon of Growing / Benjamin Harjo Jr.

Essay/Description

Benjamin Harjo Jr. (Seminole, Absentee Shawnee) attended the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1974. While at IAIA, Harjo was under the direction of influential Indigenous artists such as Allan C. Houser (1914–1944), as well as Fritz Scholder (1937–2005) and his mentor Seymour Tubis (1919–1993). Harjo’s art practice focuses on printmaking, painting, and sculpture, and this gouache painting resembles the artist’s woodblock prints. The vibrant, color-field background complements the dark and light greens of the subject’s Seminole garments.

Throughout Harjo’s life, his grandfather referred to the Farmers’ Almanac during planting and harvest seasons, an influence that can be seen in Moon of Growing. The painting is part of a series of similarly themed works by Harjo depicting a Seminole woman pulling back the curtain of night to reveal the scene in daylight. The series sought to capture a variety of colors of the landscape, varying between night and day from one season to the next.

Here, the layered sections of the woman’s hand-sewn skirt and cape mirror the striations in the abstracted representations of the earth, daytime sky, and moonlit night. The circular background highlights the balanced relationships of Seminole planting and harvesting practices, and the lunar calendar.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

This text was developed from an interview with artist Benjamin Harjo Jr. by Jordan Poorman Cocker, July 27, 2021

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Title(s): 
Moon of Growing
Creator(s): 
Benjamin Harjo Jr. (Artist)
Culture: 
Native American; Absentee Shawnee, Seminole
Date: 
1981
Materials/Techniques: 
gouache on paperboard
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of Homer and Ruth Herrington
Accession No: 
02.1767
Previous Number(s): 
TL1993.355.19; 0227.1767; 20732
Department: 
Signed by hand in gouache, "benjamin harjo JR. © 81" in center right on recto; Notes in the artist's hand; Inscribed by hand in gouache, "moon of growing" in center left on recto.
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