The deep reds, oranges, purples and blues evoke a taste of dust, a dry feeling, a sense of expansiveness.
The art of Coconino Community College alum Jerrel Singer sings a heartfelt song of his Navajo Nation home of Gray Mountain and Cameron and what home means to him.
“Mostly, they’re places people don’t see much of the time because they’re literally driving by to get somewhere else,” Singer said.
His powerful work and the work of other CCC students and faculty are on display in the Comet Art Gallery, which recently returned home to the CCC Lone Tree campus after an extended exhibition at Aspen Place at The Sawmill. And even though the COVID-19 pandemic has closed the CCC campuses to public visitation, the gallery will still make its way out to the world digitally, with virtual exhibitions via social media, said Alan Petersen, CCC Fine Arts faculty.
“I wanted to continue the programming that we had begun at the Comet Gallery when it was in the Aspen Place,” Petersen said.
He added that although the public won’t get a face-to-face interaction with the art, students, staff and faculty at CCC will have the opportunity to enjoy art in the Lone Tree Commons to brighten up the space and give it more life and vitality while the majority of students are learning remotely this semester.
Petersen said he chose Singer’s work to show how students and faculty work together.
“It’s our little community,” Petersen said. “In addition to the work of current students and faculty, we’re also featuring the work of former students, like Jerrel, and the work of some of the well-known artists in Flagstaff.”
For instance, the famed watercolor work of Roberta Rogers was featured at the gallery. Rogers formerly taught watercolor painting at CCC for several years. Upcoming featured artists include David Christiana, Darcy Falk, Leancy Rupert and Randall Wilson.
Singer said his paintings remind him of places where he grew up, riding horses with his father, chasing down cattle. Now living in cities, he misses the big, open spaces.
He’s been painting for the past 15 years.
“I didn’t want to do it at first,” Singer said. “I was an engineering student.”
But, his father became sick, and Singer said he quit school to take care of his father. During that time, he picked up a pen and paper and started drawing. Art became important for him.
“Art was always there,” Singer said. “It helped with my father’s passing. It provided me with a goal, with a purpose to create.”
Even though he has rather famous uncles who are artists—Shonto Begay, Baje Whitethorne Sr., Ed Singer—he decided to attend CCC to study art.
“I needed to have direction on really how to paint,” Singer said. “I needed that formal education to get things started. I didn’t want to rely on family.”
Now, he regularly has work showing throughout the Colorado Plateau and beyond. His work is currently scheduled for the Pueblo Indian Art Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he has work showing at Fort Collins College in Durango, Colorado. Additionally, he’s going to be featured on the PBS special “Art in the 48,” which will be airing in November.
Singer is also a member of Art of the People, an organization dedicated to bringing Native American art to a wider public, and to show Native Americans of all ages that they, too, can aspire to become artists.
“It’s the act of creation,” Singer said. “Something becomes out of nothing, with you, as creator, only limited by your imagination.”
Larry Hendricks is the Senior Manager of Public Relations and Marketing at Coconino Community College.