Jeff Slim

Written by Demetrius Gunnar Burns Category: Arts Issue: February 2015
Group Mid-Level
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Jeff Slim makes spray-paint art

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: Jeff Slim looks like an artist. With his hair pulled back into a bun, white shell earrings, lacquered fingernails and blue paint stains on his jacket, there’s no denying he does something artistic. The Phoenix resident, 28, was raised in Arizona and spent a quarter of his life living on the Navajo Nation. He sold his first painting of a landscape in the third grade for $2. That sum bought him and his friend a snow cone, but more importantly, the $2 gave Slim the confidence he needed to pursue art. In grade school, Slim won several awards for his creations, despite the dearth of art programs at his school.

Slim is Diné (the preferred term for Navajo; it means “the people” in their language) and his work incorporates a lot of cultural substance. “My art is illustrative and colorful. It [involves] personal depictions of my views of my own culture. It’s based on metaphysics involving death and the connection with the earth and the connection with ourselves,” Slim says.

One of the paintings in Slim's "string games" series

 

An example of this cultural connection can be found in the series of paintings Slim is currently creating. They are based on string games the Diné play in the winter to tell creation stories. Most of the works, like the one pictured above, show string game configurations against a backdrop of psychedelic colors and shapes.

Slim’s catalogue also features an array of figurative pieces that incorporate a sort of ancient geometry (many of them include symbols that bend and swirl in a hypotonic way). His use of color is often experimental. His work lacks many of the motifs associated with “traditional” Native art, such as feathers and horses; though Slim is a Diné artist, he shies away from being seen as some sort of cultural representative. “I don’t want anybody to think that I am actually speaking for the Navajos. It’s my own personal perspective and it’s open for questioning,” Slim says.

See more of Slim’s work at theallelectrickitchen.tumblr.com.