The Navajo Nation

Office of the President

     The Navajo Nation

Office of the President

Young Rough Rock painter discovers Navajo president to be a fan of her art

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A young painter from Rough Rock and her mother stopped by the Office of the President and Vice President last week to show her paintings to the staff.

Eighteen-year-old Marykate Harrison had no way to know that someone had found a Facebook photo of a delightful portrait she had painted on Valentine’s Day of Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren and First Lady Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren gazing into each others’ eyes, wearing their trademark hats.

“I kind of think when I look at them, ‘Are they in love?’” Marykate said to explain her inspiration. “Yes, they are in love. They really love each other.”

The picture was framed and it hangs on the wall of his office, quickly becoming a favorite of guests who visit the President.

The whimsical painting shows the President wearing his well-known blue shirt with his coral and turquoise necklace. A yellow background is festooned with white hearts floating around him and the First Lady. Both of them wear their hair tied in the traditional tsiiyéél.

Last week, as the staff in the reception room recognized she was the artist of the loved painting from her other artwork, Marykate was invited to meet the President and First Lady in his office today. She arrived with her mother Delphina Sells, her grandmother Katherine Sells and her sister Seville Sells.

“Ya’at’eeh to the artist,” the President said to Marykate. “We have the little one here.”

“It’s good to see all of you here,” said the First Lady. “We’re very excited to welcome the artist. Thank you so much. Thank you for making the time to bring her, to bring grandma and to meet the whole family. So welcome to the President’s office.”

“I’m an artist,” Marykate said, explaining why she paints. “For a really long time when I was a little bit younger, I used to like drawing a person or drawing a hogan.”

She said she was bullied in middle school and some kids didn’t like her paintings. But others told her not to listen to them and keep working at it and practicing.

“Just ignore that person,” she was told. “Just keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

In high school she was told, “You can do it, Mary. Keep doing it and keep moving forward. So I kept doing it and I finally got it.”

Marykate said she paints every day and can usually finish a painting in a day or two, depending on size.

She reached into a large blue nylon carrying case and began to pull out one painting after the next and place them on the President table.

“This is the Navajo tree of life,” she said. “The background is a grandma scarf design. People go crazy about this one and say that they really loved it. So that’s why I had to make another one of different colors.”

She showed one of a Navajo rug design and another of a powwow style.

Her mother Delphine Sells said Marykate was first inspired to paint the President and First Lady together when she saw him during the campaign.

“Wow, he’s a young guy,” Delphina said. “She just loved these two a lot.”

She said art and painting is the only way Marykate supports herself. And today it appeared to be an excellent profession for the talented young artist who left several people in the President’s office very happy.