Sandpainting is a part of the healing and ceremonial life of the traditional Navajo people. Created by carefully dropping colored sand and ground up rock onto the floor of a hogan, the Medicine Man creates these paintings to exacting requirements. Songs, chants, and prayers are said over the patient, who sits at the side of the painting. The combination of the Medicine Man’s actions and the sand painting bring healing or blessings to the patient.
In the 1960s, Navajo artists began to use the sand painting designs to create simple paintings, made with these same materials, in permanent form. The patterns were taken from traditional sand paintings but were never duplicated exactly. To do so is considered sacrilegious.
The sand is usually adhered to particle board. An adhesive is spread on the surface and the ground stones are dropped onto the board the same way the Medicine Man does in the hogan.:
Sandpaintings vary in detail, many coming very close to representing the original ceremonial use and some are very simple. Others are done using sand to paint pictorial designs and sometimes, the painting is mixed with acrylic painting.