Elizabeth Whitethorne-Benally

Elizabeth Whitethorne-Benally

Painter, Printer

I was born as a member of the Reed Clan and born for the Yucca Fruit Strung in a Line Clan in Monument Valley, Utah in 1959 with a given name in Navajo “Tall Woman from Peach Springs.” The sixth child of nine children of Alice and Leonard Lynn Whitethorne, with five older brothers and three younger sisters; steadfastly married to Mr. Kenneth Benally for more than twenty years.

I learned creativity from my grandparents, parents, and siblings, watching my older brothers draw by kerosene lamp on the dirt floor of our Hogan which was located at the base of Black Mesa on the Navajo Nation. We lived in close proximity to our great-grandparents and grandmother who were weavers, and to whom we had dirt paths which we ran barefoot every day. Through shared responsibilities of our family we raised beautiful horses, sheep and cattle so each child could ride bareback before they could walk.

My most recent works are all in celebration of the family: it came to me one day while sitting on the couch and looking around in the house. I noticed all the pictures of my family; my parents had owned a camera that captured the times and days of their lives. So, I proceeded to bring out the photo albums and digging out all the photographs; when my parents met, their friends, the baby pictures, and when the uncles and the grandparents were young. I noticed that everyone posed in front of vehicles and that every picture of my grandmother was of her on horseback, it is my most vivid memory of her.

Though most of my work is carved pine made to look rustic with the use of corral wood to symbolize the place that I come from and how I came to be who I am. I continue to express myself on canvas and watercolor paper with mixed media.


Navajo Show 2010, Museum of Northern Arizona