Tuesday, May 21, 2013

First Interview: Baje Whitethorne Sr.

It was an amazing day for the members of the 2013 Navajo Oral History project on Tuesday, May 21, when they drove to Flagstaff, Arizona, to meet with the famous artist Baje Whitethorne Sr.
(photo by Tom Hays)

Baje grew up on the Navajo Nation and continues to include Navajo themes in his paintings and sculptures that have been exhibited in museums across the United States and around the world.

As is the custom of the Navajo Oral History project, the class members and faculty provide several hours of labor in a service project for the elder to start the day by building a relationship of giving and trust prior to the interview.

Baje said he had been dreaming about cleaning out his garage and shed for a long time, and his dreams were answered when two van loads of college students showed up to help him. The students removed nearly everything from the garage and shed, cleaned everything, vacuumed the floors, organized the materials and put it all back in under Baje's direction.

He wanted to make it easy to find his tools and display materials for when he travels to show his work. And, Baje said, he needed more room to use as creative space for future art projects.

When the work was complete, Baje visited with the students for a few minutes, talking about art and the creative process.

Tom Grier, a professor of the Navajo Oral History project, presented a commemorative shirt featuring a combined logo of the two schools, to Baje.

(above two photos by Lionel Harvey)

The group sat down to enjoy box lunches prepared by the Diné College cafeteria.

Jemmisa Tsinnijinnie and Shiloh Gulbranson

(above two photos by Whitney Harlos)

Shortly after lunch, the team of students who are working on the documentary film about Baje's life set up their cameras, hooked-up their microphones and proceeded to interview Baje for nearly two hours.
(Brett Gustafson checks his camera and lenses. photo by Madison Duncan)

(Skylar Ogren helps Danielle Wieczorek set-up and test the video camera. photo by Madison Duncan)

(Madison Duncan gets the microphone set on Baje's shirt collar.)

(Robbie Christiano confirms the excellent composition Danielle selected for the Baje interview.)

(above photo by Brett Gustafson)

Madison Duncan transcribing the text of Baje's interview as he speaks. 

(above two photos by Brett Gustafson)

As the interview came to an end Baje graciously offered to give an autographed print of one of his art pieces to each member of the Navajo Oral History project group present.

(Baje Whitethorne Sr. autographs a print for Whitney Harlos.)

(Baje Whitethorne Sr. autographs a print for Shiloh Gulbranson.)

Baje Whitethorne Sr. autographs a book for Robbie Christiano.

Tom Hays with Baje Whitethorne Sr. and the print Baje autographed.

(above three photos by Whitney Harlos)

In the van ride back to the Diné College campus in Tsaile, Arizona, the students couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the day was visiting with this talented, humble, friendly and kind man.
(photo by Jolene Kuisle)

The Baje Whitethorne team: Madison Duncan, Brett Gustafson and Danielle Wieczorek of Winona State University, and Trina Thomas of Diné College. They will begin to transcribe the text of the interview, look through video and begin marking segments for inclusion in the documentary film, and review hundreds of digital photographs. They also will begin to prepare for their second interview with Baje later this week.

Two other journalism teams are on deck for Wednesday, when they will travel to do a service project for their elder and then interview the elder to begin their documentary film project.

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