Chip Thomas, aka “jetsonorama” is a photographer, public artist, activist, and physician who has been working on the Navajo Nation since 1987. As part of this year’s Red Rock Arts Festival, he installed two new murals in Moab – featuring historic photographs selected from the Moab Museum’s Collection.
This collaboration was conceived in early 2022 when Moab Arts staff began coordinating with renowned artist Chip Thomas to develop a public art project in Moab. The resulting murals spotlight two eras of industry in the Moab Valley, ranching and mining, that together create a rich dialogue and nuanced look at the people who settled and developed our community. The work was installed as part of the 2023 Red Rock Arts Festival, a free annual event produced by Moab Arts, along with other programming and projects that highlighted human history and dreams for the future.
The historic images featured in the murals, one of the 1956 Uranium Queen and one of Black cowboy Charlie Glass, were selected by Thomas from the Museum’s collection. Thomas’ choice of figures reflects both dominant and marginalized narratives that helped to shape the fabric of Moab today. The pieces are tied to larger themes in Chip’s body of work: the devastating and ongoing legacy of extraction in the Southwest and the buried history of African-American settlers in the West.
His striking and thought-provoking murals often feature his own large-scale portraits, pasted onto the faces of abandoned roadside buildings. Many photographs highlight the beauty and contemporary experiences of the Diné people on the Navajo reservation where he lived for 37 years and recently retired from his career as a physician. His newest project, a permanent exhibit in Fort Garland, Colorado titled Buffalo Soldiers: revision, uses historic photographs and cross-disciplinary contributions from seven other artists to tell the story of the all-Black army regiments that were employed to further westward expansion after the Civil War.
We are honored to host two of his pieces that we hope will contribute to a more dynamic sense of place and inspire viewers to take a deeper look into Moab’s history.