Poetry Connections: Emmi Whitehorse
Grade Level: 5–8
About the Artist
Emmi Whitehorse (Diné) was born in 1957. She grew up in Whitehorse Lake, New Mexico, speaking the Navajo language. She attended the University of New Mexico, where she earned a BA in painting and an MA in printmaking. Whitehorse lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
About the Artwork
Imagine yourself outside, surrounded by dense fog. In Emmi Whitehorse’s painting Fog Bank, seedpods and other organic shapes and lines intermingle and seem to whirl and float. To create the shifting blue hues of fog, Whitehorse rubbed chalk directly into the paper with her hands. Her work reflects the Diné concept of hózhó, an approach to life that embraces beauty, goodness, and being in balance with nature.
Discussion Questions and Activity
Take a quiet minute to look carefully at the artwork. Let your eyes wander across the surface. What do you notice right away? Which details take longer to find?
Which color does the artist use most? What other colors do you see?
What words can you use to describe the lines and shapes?
Take a deep breath. Imagine that you can step inside this artwork. A soft blue mist is all around you. How does it feel? Slowly, you notice shapes and lines. How do they move? What do they remind you of? Would you like to visit this place again? Why or why not?
Emmi Whitehorse does not indicate which way is up or down in this work. Why would she choose to do that?
Try rotating the image 90 degrees. How does your reaction change? Turn it again. What new images bubble up? Rotate it a third time. What do you notice now? Is there an orientation you prefer? Why or why not?
Emmi Whitehorse is inspired by the landscape near her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has described the marks and shapes in Fog Bank as an “intricate language of symbols [that] refer to specific plants, people, and experiences.”
What does this work make you think about?
What kind of places inspire you? Why?
Create a Word Pile poem inspired by Fog Bank.
- Divide the class into small groups of three or four students.
- Each person will use three notecards or Post-Its to write a word or short phrase—only one to three words per card—describing a thought or observation about the artwork.
- After each group has finished writing their words and phrases, each person will read their cards to their group.
- Each small group then arranges the cards into a poem, creating each line with either a single, a few, or several cards. The students may use some or all of the cards. There is no wrong way to compose the poem.
- Allow about ten minutes for the small groups to work on the poems.
- Optional: Provide blank paper and tape so each group can secure their cards in the selected order.
- Invite each group to share its poem with the class. Consider connections between the poems and Fog Bank.