D.Y. Begay, a Navajo born to the Totsohni’ (Big Water) Clan and born for the Tachinii’ (Red Running into Earth) Clan, is a fourth-generation weaver. Growing up around female weavers, she was exposed to herding and shearing sheep, carding and spinning wool, harvesting plants for dyeing, and learning to weave in the traditional Navajo fashion. Begay’s tapestries encompass her interpretation of the natural beauty and descriptive colors of the Navajo reservation, reflecting on her Navajo identity. Begay’s work commemorates her family’s weaving tradition by using the unique and local vegetation of the Navajo. This spiritual connection to the plants yields the natural colors that are transformed into evocative land formations on her loom. Her current work combines her mastery of this tradition with unconventional uses of colors and design, producing experiments with non-reservation color combinations in her weavings.
Begay is a 2018 United States Artists Fellow and is a recipient of the Native American Art Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award (2013). In 2018 the Museum of Northern Arizona organized Tselani/Terrain: Tapestries of D.Y. Begay, a focused retrospective of her work. Begay’s tapestries have been exhibited in and collected by major museums, including the National Museum of the American Indian, New York City; Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Santa Fe, NM; Kennedy Museum of Art, Athens, OH; C.N. Gorman Museum, Davis, CA; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA; Mesa Art Center, Mesa, AZ; National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Heard Museum. Her work traveled in the Arts in Embassies program in 2006 and 2010. Her latest work, a wintry landscape of northeastern Minnesota commissioned by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, is presently on tour in the acclaimed exhibition Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists.