Leland Holiday was born into one of the most famous families in Navajo basket making but it was never something he was interested in learning.
“I didn’t want to make baskets,” he says. “But I always knew I wanted to be an artist.”
He and his brother, Roger Armstrong, became well known as folk artists before they graduated from high school. It was a chance encounter with folk art dealer Jack Beasley of Farmington that got them started.
Beasley was at a fair in Farmington when he saw Leland and his brother carving wooden toys. He talked to them and offered to buy some of their work. That kicked it off and they worked with him for several years. Before he graduated from High School, Leland had been a featured artist at the Wheelright Museum in Santa Fe and the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. He was featured in books on Folk Art.
The only problem was that Leland never thought of himself as a “Folk Artist.” “The only reason we were carving toys is that our parents didn’t have enough money to buy them for us!” he explains.
Holiday was also lucky enough to have a great high school art teacher that recognized his talent and exposed him to a wide variety of art, from the Masters to Modernists. He learned to paint, draw and sculpt!
Many of you who have visited the gallery or one of our art shows have seen or purchased one of his board paintings. Using the surface of a board, he carves, freehand, the outline of an animal and paints it with his dynamic color combinations.
Today, I thought it would be fun to feature some of Leland’s acrylic paintings on canvas. They have an entirely different feel while maintaining his sense of color and design. He hand-stretches the canvas and they are made to be hung on a wall as they are, or some people prefer to frame them.
They depict traditional and modern Navajo life. I think you will like them!