Big Brain Awards

Jeff Slim: 2015 Big Brain Award Finalist, Visual Art

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See also: Beth May: 2015 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Performing Art

He concedes that collectors shudder at the thought of him effectively destroying his work. But for Slim, it's better to begin again than to present something that people don't connect with. Worse yet would be for a piece to sit around for months and months. This blend of borderline superstition and humble outlook makes the Navajo artist's work all the more covetable.

The room's warm, with a loud fan circulating air up to the high ceiling. David Bowie's "Sound and Vision" plays from a small speaker in the corner. Slim is alternating between working on four paintings that hang on the walls, which are streaked with bright lines of paint. The largest of the four, a blue-heavy self-portrait in which a bespectacled Slim stares out with gentle, almost sad eyes, will go up in just a few days as part of monOrchid gallery's "Street Art" exhibition.

He works quickly. Since his first show at 1Spot Gallery off Roosevelt Row about two years ago, he's steadily shown art in galleries locally and outside Arizona. His brightly colored works, often portraits complemented by weaving geometric lines, have garnered a following. "Sometimes, it's a bit overwhelming," the artist says.

Slim likes to explore what it means to be Navajo, what his tribe's creation stories mean, and what he can learn from bridging the gap between the reservation and city life. As a member of the Black Sheep Collective, an arts group that works to connect young and older Native artists, he remains connected to his Navajo community, despite residing in Phoenix. "I'm still learning about who I am in terms of being Navajo," he says. With his murals and paintings, he questions superstitions, gender roles, and how the past intersects with the present.

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski