Lifetime Achievement Award

At each conference NAASA honors an outstanding individual with the Native American Art Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award. It is intended to honor a living individual who has made a lifetime contribution to the study of Native American art.

2013 Honoree: D. Y. Begay

Artist D.Y. Begay was honored with NAASA’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 NAASA banquet. She was nominated by Janet Berlo, Jill Yohe and Ann Lane Hedlund. After introducing herself in Navajo, Yohe gave a heartfelt presentation about D.Y. and her contribution to the field. Excerpts from this presentation give a glimpse of the many contributions of this important artist:

Begay“It is a tradition to alternate the Lifetime Achievement Award between artists and scholars, but this year the committee did not have to make that choice. D. Y. Begay is both. She is an eloquent and erudite writer and historian of her craft, as well as a talented artist.  D. Y. Begay’s legacy as an outstanding weaver and artist is rooted in traditional weaving techniques and forms. She creates unique and signature works of art that reference important themes, which are often firmly tied to concepts of place. Her own textiles push weaving in new directions, from her representations of desert landscapes, to her abstract designs in glorious colors, to interpretations of cultural patterns gathered in her travels. Her design sources are cosmopolitan, but her most powerful designs interpret Native-related imagery—from Plains parfleches to Hudson’s Bay point blankets.

A fourth generation weaver, who learned the traditional art of Navajo weaving from family members, she is experienced at herding and shearing sheep, carding and spinning wool, and harvesting plants for dyeing. While most of her wools are handspun and dyed with plants she gathers, she expresses a diverse range of colors and design concepts drawn from contemporary culture and her international travels. In addition to her artistic practice, D. Y. Begay is a curator of historic and contemporary art and offers her wisdom as a consultant to museums and cultural centers, tirelessly educating people about wools, dyes, weaving, and Navajo cultural traditions. As a teacher, D. Y. Begay travels the globe to introduce newcomers to the art of spinning and weaving in the tradition of her ancestors. As she teaches people to spin and weave, Begay also articulates the rich history of Navajo history and culture, as she transforms the historical practice into a living art form for her students.

Recognition of D.Y. Begay’s work is expressed in the breadth of local, national, and international institutions that have exhibited and collected her art. Her most recent exhibition at the C.N. Gorman Museum at the University of California at Davis closed on March 15, 2013. Her works have also been exhibited at the National Museum of the American Indian, New York City; Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Santa Fe, NM; Kennedy Museum of Art, Athens, OH; Mesa Art Center, Mesa, AZ; and National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland. D.Y. Begay’s many curatorial credits include exhibitions in Athens, Ohio, (Kennedy Museum of Art); New York (National Museum of the American Indian); and Santa Fe, New Mexico (Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian). In addition, her art traveled in the Arts in Embassies program in 2006 and 2010.”

Previous honorees include:

Robin Wright (2011)

Benjamin Harjo, Jr. (2009)

Naomi Pascal (2007)

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (2005)

Barbara Hail (2003)

Mary Hamilton (2001)

Arthur Amiotte (1999)

Pablita Velarde and J. J. Brody (1997)

Bud Whiteford (1995)

Gloria Cranmer-Webster (1993)

Bill Holm (1991)

John Ewers (1989)

Kate Peck Kent (1987)