Pandemic hits artists, but Jerrel Singer continues to create art to promote hope on the Navajo reservation
Despite a loss of income and the stress of the rapidly spreading coronavirus, Singer continues on
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — In a normal year, Jerrel Singer would be busy getting his artwork ready for summer art markets, traveling to other areas by crisscrossing the Southwest to small and large markets and squeezing in customer orders.
Instead, because of the global pandemic that has also spurred an outbreak on the Navajo Nation, the markets have been canceled or postponed, there are no markets to travel for and Singer, along with other artists are having to find ways to sell their art.
“The difficulty level has expanded to where I can create something, I’m just not able to sell it,” Singer said. “People enjoy my work, but are unable to purchase it now.”
Singer is a local artist. He was born in Tó Naneesdizí (Tuba City, Arizona). His family is from Naʼníʼá Hasání (Cameron, Arizona) and Gray Mountain, Arizona. He currently lives in Kinłání Dookʼoʼoosłííd Biyaagi (Flagstaff).
Singer admits that the stress of the coronavirus impacts all areas of his life
“It’s having to deal with family and friends and endure the stress of people able to work and handle this outbreak and make ends meet,” Singer said. “Just within a span of a week, family members have succumbed to the COVID virus. It is hard not to visit and see people that you care for.”
Singer said the time does give him a chance to explore new ideas that he hasn’t been able to do before and see where those things go creatively.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” he said. “I can express more of my ideas and colors in new different styles. That’s the most exciting part.”
Daniel Josley recommended Singer to Morgan Fatali and Light Hunter, who own Hank’s Trading Post on U.S. Highway 89, when he was painting a mural for them. They contacted Singer about painting a mural for them on the property.
Singer said Hunter envisions Hank’s Trading Post being along the ‘Highway of Hope,’ where the highway is turned into an art exhibition and where they can help people along the highway.
Hanks Trading Post has been continually renovating the trading post and during the pandemic has been a food distribution area for residents in the area.
Generally, though, Singer is trying to keep motivating himself to paint.
“I’ve done some work, not as much as I used to — the creative part is different from the past,” Singer said. “It allows me to try different styles and adjust where I need to focus and seek to be much more comfortable.”
Singer said the most important thing right now is to be careful and help one another out.
“Our elders need to be taken care of and [it needs to be] explained to them, that they are our guides for all our Diné people,” Singer said. “We need to volunteer ourselves to be better individuals for our family and friends.”
That includes helping each other and making sure that precautions are taken, he said.
“We need to know when to say we need help,” Singer said. “As long as we strive to make things better for all of us, we can overcome and be better prepared for anything that comes our way.”
Singer said the idea reminds him of a quote he heard awhile ago.
“‘I grew up knowing it’s wrong to have more than you need, it means you’re not taking care of your people,’” Singer recalled. “This is meant for all of us, especially those of us who want to be a good leader.”
Anyone interested in Singer’s work can find it on Facebook at Jerrel Singer Art.