Chip Thomas
Painted Desert project Author: Chip Thomas

Chip Thomas

Photographer and Physician


meet chip

Dr. Chip Thomas (aka “Jetsonorama”) is a photographer, public artist, activist, and physician who has been working between Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon on the Navajo Nation since 1987. He coordinates the Painted Desert Project, which manifests as a constellation of murals across the Navajo Nation, painted by artists from all over the rez and the world. Dr. Thomas was raised in the southern USA and has always been interested in social justice issues. Thomas was one of a handful of artists chosen to recognize the United Nation’s 75th anniversary.

Nominated by: Rebecca Martin FN'02
Class of 2021 Location USA

Dr. Chip Thomas cycled across Africa in the 1990s with National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner, producing uniquely powerful black and white imagery along the way. He has spent the last 30 years providing medical care for the Navajo Nation and photographing the Diné (the Navajo people). He showcases their lives and plight through huge posters of his black and white images applied to structures visible to the public along roadways, at art stands, on water tanks, any available structure.

Spending his free time exploring the Four Corners area, and photo-documenting individuals along the way, Chip then creates murals. These not only help the public understand some of the issues the locals face, but they are a wonderful support to the people indigenous to this land.

“For the future, I would like to see local communities take ownership of the conservation activities needed to help conserve lemurs, protect the forest, and live sustainably in areas around Ankarafantsika National Park.”

- Chip Thomas

Chip’s incredible dedication to the health and issues confronting the Navajo Nation, as expressed through his art and collaboration with other artists through the Painted Desert Project, is exemplary of an individual changing the world and caring for a nation of people who bring rich cultural context to this country. As a member of the Justseeds Artists Cooperative, he appreciates the opportunity to be part of a community of like-minded, socially engaged artists. Heretofore, too often individual lives of the Navajo have received little attention from the public. This art strives to change that.

An explorer of culture, a medical doctor, and an individual committed to helping a culture in need, Chip Thomas has been making a huge difference for the Navajo Nation over three decades, illuminating this tribe through his incredible vision and art.

never stop exploring


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