In 2004, when the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian opened in Washington D.C. a Tony Abeyta painting served as the official illustration of the museum's opening. “Anthem”, the specially commissioned mixed-media work on wood panels, is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. This commission alone was a prestigious accomplishment but it was not Abeyta’s first: the widely successful Navajo artist had been commissioned six years earlier to create "The Four Directions" as the signature image of the museum’s groundbreaking. Founding Director, W. Richard West, wrote of Abeyta’s work: “His art is never static or complacent and is, instead, fearless, always changing, always moving; constantly pushing to new places of artistic creativity and resolution.” The Turquoise Tortoise Gallery’s owner, Peggy Lanning, still remembers the first time Tony Abeyta walked into her gallery over twenty-five years ago. “He was seventeen years old and he laid all his work out right on the floor for me to take a look at. I’ve been representing him ever since.”
Abeyta, who grew up in Gallup, New Mexico, began his artistic path early studying at Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts; he received a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and has studied in France, Italy and the Chicago Institute of Art. Abeyta’s work combines vision and intuition with the colors and textures of his homeland; though his pieces draw on his Navajo (Diné) heritage, they have a universal feel. He finds it is often a combination of acrylic and oil paints, gold leafing, encaustic wax and collage elements that best translates his ideas onto canvas. Adding sand builds his paint into richly textured layers achieving a dramatic sculptural dimension.
“I want my work to reinforce the ideology of Indian religion, its strength, its beauty and semblance,” Abeyta says. “I work to create an interpretation of deities translated through myself and given an identity devoid of their actual documented existence. . . . This system of ritual belief is the most important basis in Indian culture and ensures its infinite existence.” Abeyta’s work is in constant transition. "Painting for me leaves no stone unturned within its context,” he says. “I experiment with images, techniques and mediums, translating paint into an image both personal and spiritual."
Today Abeyta’s paintings hang in museums and private collections throughout North America, Europe and Japan bringing this singular Native American art to the world.