Doctor behind giant Navajo Nation murals

unique, colorful, and larger than life, these works of art are popping up all over the nation.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - They're big, they're unexpected and they're the work of a Navajo Nation transplant who has found a deep-rooted love for the culture he is immersed in everyday. 

"I really see myself as kind of a megaphone, you know, amplifying messages within the community," said Chip Thomas, a doctor practicing on the Navajo Nation. 

His art has been popping up all over the "rez", as it's affectionately known among those who call the more than 27,000-square-miles home. And his artwork is really hard to miss. 

Water tanks, two-story homes, trading posts and abandoned structures -- they're all fair game and a blank canvas for the doctor who is also known as street artist, "Jetsonorama." 

"Honesty, [there's] a simplicity and a beauty I think that struck me early on, and still strikes me," he said in reference to Navajo culture. 

Dr. Thomas came from North Carolina in 1987 to practice medicine and never left. 

"I like to think of the Navajo Nation as home now," he said. 

It was after a trip to Brazil in 2009 where he helped other street artists that he was inspired to create. Using his own collection of photographs, Dr. Thomas made huge prints of smiling babies, walking Code Talkers and laughing elders.

Using buck wheat paste, the doctor would go out at night and paste the images, sometimes several stories tall, in different locations. 

"I was hearing feedback within the community and, you know, also on street art blogs online within a month," he said. "People dug what I was doing."

His work was mostly anonymous until he was driving by one of his pieces along Highway 89, just north of Cameron. An image of three Code Talkers was pasted up against an abandoned roadside stand. 

"I pulled over and asked if I could take a picture of one of the Code Talkers," Dr. Thomas said. "And one of the older guys said, ‘Yeah, you may as well, everybody else has been doing that.’"

A group of men were fixing the stand to be usable again because so many people were pulling over to take photographs.

It was that in that moment Dr. Thomas said he realized his art could be used in a way that could bring positive outcomes to the surrounding communities. 

Copyright 2016 KPNX


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment