“In my work… I hope to help preserve a record of the traditional life of our people and to educate those who know little of us, desiring that increased knowledge and understanding will help all of us to live better with one another and with the natural world.”
Jonathan Warm Day Coming
Eah-Ha-Wa (Eva Mirabal) was born in New Mexico on the ancestral Taos Pueblo homeland. Her Tiwa (Taos dialect) name, Eah-Ha-Wa, translates to Fast Growing Corn. She studied at the Santa Fe Indian School, and the Taos Valley Art School. The small village was frequented by visitors from the nation and the world—Eah-Ha-Wa's father served as a model for Anglo artists including Nicolai Fechin and Joseph Imhoff. Thus his young daughter had plenty of exposure to the wider world and the notion of art as career choice. She began to attract attention in her family as an artist at age nineteen when she was chosen to be part of a gallery exhibition in Chicago. Despite early contact with mainstream art, Eah-Ha-Wa painted scenes of everyday life free of European romanticizing, and her natural inclination as an artist was toward cartoons.
On May 6, 1943 Eah-Ha-Wa enlisted in the Women’s Army Corp and was stationed at Wright Field in Ohio. She was assigned to create a cartoon for WAC publications. Her character, G.I. Gertie, found herself in all the aspects and situations —often comedic—of military life. Eah-Ha-Wa's skill as a graphic artist was apparent, and she was asked to continue with the character, as well as to create posters for US war bonds.
With the elevation of comic books to the graphic novel of mainstream art, cartooning has become a common and accepted medium for Native American artists as well. The cartoon now captures the complexity, fluidity and adaptive quality of the culture itself. But when Eah-Ha-Wa began cartooning, she was arguably the first published Native American cartoonist (male or female), and one of the first American female cartoonists. After the war, she served as Artist in Residence at Southern Illinois University for the academic year 1946-1947. The telling of stories through storyboards and the expression of cultural history through pictures were central to Eah-Ha-Wa's style. Her murals would serve the same ends as her cartoons. Eah-Ha-Wa's mural work had begun as early as the late 1930s, while she was a student in the Studio, the fine arts program established in 1932 at the Santa Fe Indian School and whose roster of alumni includes Native American artists Allan Houser, Ben Quintana, Harrison Begay, Joe H. Herrara, Quincy Tahoma, Andy Tsihnajinnie, Pablita Velarde, Tonita Lujan, Pop-Chalee, Oscar Howe, and Geronima Cruz Montoya. During that time Eah-Ha-Wa received instruction in working on large murals, often with political themes, and became a sought-after muralist. Her mural work could be seen at the Santa Fe Indian School (a building-length mural titled A Bridge of Wings), at the world headquarters of Air Service Command, at Patterson Field, Ohio, and at Buhl Planetarium in Allegheny Square, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Eah-Ha-Wa was twenty-two years old when she painted this mural ). Eah-Ha-Wa's attention to detail and proficient design skills also led to commissions for many other projects, including a major work at the Veteran’s Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In July 2008 the All Indian Pueblo Council, which administers the Santa Fe Indian School, began demolishing the old campus. Along with many historic buildings destroyed were the unique and invaluable murals created by Eah-Ha-Wa and other art students.
Eah-Ha-Wa's fine art tradition is being carried on by her son Jonathan Warm Day Coming, a self-taught Taos Pueblo artist, storyteller and writer. Jonathan Warm Day Coming is considered a deeply influential voice for his family’s homeland, the Taos Pueblo. He is primarily known for his colorful acrylic paintings, which provide a visual narrative of the daily experiences and spiritual life drawn from his many childhood memories at Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Mr. Warm Day Coming's daily life of participating in tribal culture, festivals and religious events is deeply rooted in the message of his paintings, preserving the memories of the pastoral lifestyle, rich cultural heritage, and daily life intertwined inseparably with nature.
Jonathan began woodcarving as a child. Gradually, under the tutelage of his mother Eah-Ha-Wah, he became interested in drawing. After graduating from Taos High School, Jonathan attended Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, and then studied art at the University of New Mexico. In his work, careful homage is paid to his mother, but Jonathan's style is clearly his own. Warm Day Coming offers a contemporary visual expression, giving the viewer a unique and candid view into the intimate communal life of Taos Pueblo.
Jonathan Warm Day Coming's paintings have been shown at The International Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas; Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University; and most recently at The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he was the only living artist featured in the exhibition Native American Picture Books of Change. His work is on display in Santa Fe (Hotel Santa Fe), and is included in many private and institutional collections.
Warm Day Coming's Last Supper gained wide interest as a result of its political connotations. The painting depicts a Taos Pueblo family sitting in their home in the Pueblo, during a meal, looking through a window at silhouetted Spanish conquistadors riding by. He painted it in response to a visit to the Southwest by dignitaries from Spain: “Although the Hispanic community was looking forward to their arrival, there was a different feeling about the visit on the part of the Native American community because it brought to mind old wounds” (Jonathan Warm Day Coming). Turner Publishing Company has asked to use the image in its publication, The Native Americans. The painting has also been featured in a college history textbook, First Peoples, A Documentary Survey of American Indian History by Colin G. Calloway, a professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. It was also used in a grade school history book, Perspectives: Authentic Voices of Native Americans, published by Curriculum Associates.
Jonathan Warm Day Coming's first book, Taos Pueblo Painted Stories, was published in 2002 by Clearlight Publishers of Santa Fe, and is now in its third printing. The stories are drawn from both Jonathan’s personal experiences and his family’s oral traditions. An article about the book was featured in the December 2005 issue of New Mexico Magazine. Warm Day Coming also illustrated Kiki’s Journey, a childrens’ book written by Kristy Orona Ramirez and published by Children’s Book Press of San Francisco.
Currently Warm Day Coming is devoting part of his time to researching and gathering a collection of his mother’s artwork, holding true to the Pueblo’s religious and cultural traditions, and looking forward to the completion of his first novel.
Jina Brenneman, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions