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 Eva (Eah-Ha-Wa) Mirabal  (1920 - 1968)

About: Eva (Eah-Ha-Wa) Mirabal
 

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/Illinois / Mexico      Known for: Pueblo figures and genre, cartoons, teaching

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Eah-Ha-Wa is primarily known as Eva (Eah-Ha-Wa) Mirabal

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Biography from The Harwood Museum of Art:
Eah-Ha-Wa (Eva Mirabal) was born in New Mexico on the ancestral Taos Pueblo homeland. Her Tiwa (Taos dialect) name, Eah-Ha-Wa, translates to Fast Growing Corn. She studied at the Santa Fe Indian School*, and the Taos Valley Art School*. The small village was frequented by visitors from the nation and the world—Eah-Ha-Wa's father served as a model for Anglo artists including Nicolai Fechin and Joseph Imhoff. Thus his young daughter had plenty of exposure to the wider world and the notion of art as career choice. She began to attract attention in her family as an artist at age nineteen when she was chosen to be part of a gallery exhibition in Chicago. Despite early contact with mainstream art, Eah-Ha-Wa painted scenes of everyday life free of European romanticizing, and her natural inclination as an artist was toward cartoons.

On May 6, 1943 Eah-Ha-Wa enlisted in the Women’s Army Corp and was stationed at Wright Field in Ohio. She was assigned to create a cartoon for WAC publications. Her character, G.I. Gertie, found herself in all the aspects and situations —often comedic—of military life. Eah-Ha-Wa's skill as a graphic artist was apparent, and she was asked to continue with the character, as well as to create posters for US war bonds.

With the elevation of comic books to the graphic novel of mainstream art, cartooning has become a common and accepted medium for Native American artists as well. The cartoon now captures the complexity, fluidity and adaptive quality of the culture itself. But when Eah-Ha-Wa began cartooning, she was arguably the first published Native American cartoonist (male or female), and one of the first American female cartoonists. After the war, she served as Artist in Residence at Southern Illinois University for the academic year 1946-1947.

The telling of stories through storyboards and the expression of cultural history through pictures were central to Eah-Ha-Wa's style. Her murals would serve the same ends as her cartoons. Eah-Ha-Wa's mural work had begun as early as the late 1930s, while she was a student in the Studio, the fine arts program established in 1932 at the Santa Fe Indian School and whose roster of alumni includes Native American artists Allan Houser, Ben Quintana, Harrison Begay, Joe H. Herrara, Quincy Tahoma, Andy Tsihnajinnie, Pablita Velarde, Tonita Lujan, Pop-Chalee, Oscar Howe and Geronima Cruz Montoya.

During that time Eah-Ha-Wa received instruction in working on large murals, often with political themes, and became a sought-after muralist. Her mural work could be seen at the Santa Fe Indian School (a building-length mural titled A Bridge of Wings), at the world headquarters of Air Service Command, at Patterson Field, Ohio, and at Buhl Planetarium in Allegheny Square, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Eah-Ha-Wa was twenty-two years old when she painted this mural ). Eah-Ha-Wa's attention to detail and proficient design skills also led to commissions for many other projects, including a major work at the Veteran’s Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In July 2008 the All Indian Pueblo Council, which administers the Santa Fe Indian School, began demolishing the old campus. Along with many historic buildings destroyed were the unique and invaluable murals created by Eah-Ha-Wa and other art students.

Eah-Ha-Wa's fine art tradition is being carried on by her son Jonathan Warm Day Coming, a self-taught Taos Pueblo artist, storyteller and writer. Jonathan Warm Day Coming is considered a deeply influential voice for his family’s homeland, the Taos Pueblo. He is primarily known for his colorful acrylic paintings, which provide a visual narrative of the daily experiences and spiritual life drawn from his many childhood memories at Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Mr. Warm Day Coming's daily life of participating in tribal culture, festivals and religious events is deeply rooted in the message of his paintings, preserving the memories of the pastoral lifestyle, rich cultural heritage, and daily life intertwined inseparably with nature.
 
 
Written and submitted by Jina Brenneman,
Curator of Collections and Exhibitions

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