Nani Chacon Finds the Essence of Home

LOS ANGELES — “[Nani Chacon] addresses how a secure home is essential.” This the phrase, from the press release for Chacon’s exhibition +Home+ at Timothy Hawkinson Gallery, forced me to pause. With the climate crisis impacting our shared home of the earth, continually increasing unhoused populations, and ongoing military onslaughts against the people of Gaza, I was eager to turn to an Indigenous artist, a Diné woman, and engage with her critical and creative perspectives on home.

The exhibition is a mediation on notions of home through the lens of Chacon’s ancestors, lived experience, and the legacies we leave for future generations. She began by asking questions — What does the idea of home actually mean? What do we really need? — and examining the different facets and nuances of home, from the familiar and comforting to the potential of a sacred transformative space or the body as home. The show also reflects on oral traditions and creation stories as narratives of survivance.

Beyond the exhibition, Chacon’s practice extends to murals and public works, illustration, installation, and design, all of which can be understood as participatory storytelling. Reflecting on storytelling, Diné creation stories, and Indigenous oral traditions, the artist said in conversation with Hyperallergic, “It is totally by design that all our histories are oral because it invites connection, it invites generational connection, and it lacks ownership. Everyone can own it. And I think when you lack ownership you invite everyone into the conversation.”

Nani Chacon, “Transformational Space: Walking clockwise/counterclockwise” (2023), graphite and acrylic on polytab, 102 x 60 inches

An intimate dialogue unfolds among the exhibition’s five works, beginning with “I Miss You…” (all works 2023), an inviting portrait of Chacon’s grandmother’s couch. Broken in and worn, the couch serves as both a refuge for and witness to the lives around it. Navajo weaving and textiles are folded and placed on the couch to protect from the constant use and provide warmth to its sitters. A blue translucent arch traverses the couch diagonally, emphasizing that this is not a static domestic object.

“Transformational Space: Walking clockwise/counterclockwise stacks four perspectives of a hogan, a traditional Diné dwelling. The title highlights how sacred space contains transformative power that can raise consciousness and acknowledges how those spaces are meant to be entered. Conversely, “In Her Body She Made a Home…” explores treating one’s body as home. A female figure is both exposed and veiled as she washes her hair in a woven basket. While we can see the figure’s brown breast, Chacon drapes a textile on her back like armor. Yellow crosses sprinkled over her bent back and parts of her body (beyond her line of sight) convey a presence beyond what’s visible. 

The last two works look at home in terms of solitude and creation. Inspired by a Diné creation story, “Asdzáá Yoolgai Travels West Seeking Solitude” portrays a goddess in solitude. The turquoise sky hues match her eye shadow, pointing to her grounded gaze. In “Spider Woman Creates a Home, a spider actively weaves on a loom. This points to the ways ongoing agency is required to establish and maintain a home. Much like spiders, Chacon shared, “All people, we are always in search of creating and preserving our home.”  

Chacon’s work isn’t prescriptive, nor does attempt to define “home”; rather, she invites us into an ongoing story to expand our scope of vision, as a starting place for radical change.

Nani Chacon, “In Her Body She Made a Home…” (2023), acrylic on polytab, 102 x 60 inches
Nani Chacon, “Asdzáá Yoolgai Travels West Seeking Solitude” (2023), graphite and acrylic on polytab, 102 x 96 inches
Nani Chacon, “Spider Woman Creates a Home” (2023), graphite and acrylic on polytab, 102 x 60 inches

Nani Chacon: +Home+ continues at Timothy Hawkinson Gallery (7424 Beverly Boulevard, Fairfax, Los Angeles) through December 16. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.  

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