Nanibah “Nani” Chacon, a Diné/Xicana artist from New Mexico, is using her art to place a spotlight on the injustices being brought on women of color. The 2016 mural she co-created with artist Tanaya Winder, entitled “On Both Sides of the Border … Women Are Still Being Murdered,” shows how women are unsafe amongst two nations. The ethereal “Missing” finds parallels between the murders and disappearances of indigenous women in North America and the endangered Monarch butterfly. Before these works, Nani was also the featured artist for the 2014 Summer Institute MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social), but her creativity reaches even farther back than that.
Born in Gallup, and raised in Corrales, New Mexico and Chinli, Arizona, Chacon began as a graffiti artist at 16, and continued as such for the next ten years. With the birth of her son, she began exploring other mediums, including oil painting. Occasionally, Nani has returned to painting murals, such as for the International ISEA Arts and Technology Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and for the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.
Through the female archetypes in her work, she explores the ideas of feminism, culture, traditions, and modernism, evoking a dialogue between culture and the contemporary social perspective. She also creates an environment in which traditional ideas and the current cultural climate intermingle.
Nanibah’s skill and experience with large canvasses such as murals have given her the ability to incorporate structural elements into her work. Her “Creation At Dawn” is found at the Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque, and it uses the walls to hold a representation of a Chief’s blanket to symbolize the Navajo creation story’s First Man, against which is a female character, First Woman. From her hand flies forth a line of bluebirds representing all of creation. The birds draw the viewer’s eyes around the room and to the window, inviting them to share the view of “all of creation”.
Nanibah shows her work across the United States and internationally. She currently works out of her studio in Albuquerque, where she also currently teaches, and created the largest mural in New Mexico, called “Resistance.” She holds a BA in Art Education from the University of New Mexico and has received numerous awards. She hopes to continue working on large scale site-specific murals in order to expand and diversify her audience and to build upon the social perspectives conveyed through her art.