From the Old King to the New King

Meet Our 2016 Artist-in-Residence, Chip Thomas

Chip ThomasChip Thomas, aka “jetsonorama,” is the Society for Ritual Arts’ Artist-in-Residence  for 2016. He is a photographer, public artist, activist and physician who has been working between Monument Valley and The Grand Canyon in the Navajo nation since 1987. He coordinates the Painted Desert Project – a community-building effort which manifests as a constellation of murals across western Navajo Nation painted by artists from all over the rez + the world.

Thomas’ own public artwork consists of enlarged black and white photographs pasted on structures along the roadside on the Navajo Nation. His motivation is to reflect back to the people in his community the love and elements of the culture they’ve shared with him over the years.

He is a member of the Justseeds Artists Co-operative, an international collective of 30 socially-engaged artists. You can find his large-scale photographs pasted in the desert, on the graphics of the People’s Climate March, the National Geographic Blog, Lens Culture and on In beauty it is finished.

A Heartfelt Greeting from the Old King to the New King

dog-from-space by Chip ThomasIvan Szendro, the Society for Ritual Arts’ Shaman Advisor and 2015 Artist-in-Residence, welcomes his “replacement”

In Hungary, by the ancient shamanic tradition, there is a New Year celebration when people in the villages elect a “New King,” which many times today is a ridiculous mock ceremony. But in old times, accordingly to Geza Roheim, a much quoted and disputed Jungian psychologist and folklorist[1], this was a very big thing in the “Pagan”  Hungarians’ calendar. ‘Twas a very democratic event, indeed. They chose a “King” who could do and decide practically anything he wanted, they admired and celebrated him – then after 10 years he became again just like any other tribal member.

Now, I don’t feel myself truly in the shoes of the Old King, but with some side-glance I was checking out; who’s gonna be the next, who comes after me, who will sit in my Old Year’s throne?

So I saw the new guy, Chip Thomas’ things on web, and in a second I was enchanted of his works. He is not only an Artist, he is a visionary shaman, a spiritual environmentalist, a ghost evoker.

In the midst of nowhere or in the dilapidated, polluted urban scenes he helps recreate and re-evoke the wonderful tribal cultures that flourished before. On the rusty bungalow you can see a giant Navajo boy swinging ecstatically on an old tire; on functioning water tanks by windmills you might witness enlarged photos of people from his community celebrating the sacred Spirit of Life.

He is my man!!! And yours too, let’s celebrate that he is among us. Hail to the New Society for Ritual Arts’ Artist in Residence for 2016 , Chip Thomas!



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