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Students capture Native American spiritual symbols on canvas

Published: Thursday, Dec. 1 2011 6:22 p.m. MST

Jordan High School students unveil their Native American mural they worked on at the school in Sandy Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011. Students worked with artist-in-residence Lee Madrid and the school received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SANDY — Native American spiritual symbols and the vision of high school students are combined in a large-scale mural on display at Jordan High.

The three part, 18-foot long painting was created by students under the direction of an artist-in-residence from the Utah Center for Documentary Expression and Art.

"I was really impressed with the creativity of the students," said Jordan High art teacher Cozette Baddley."Also with their ability to step up to the plate and spend so many hours after school working on it."

About 20 students worked on the mural, which took four weeks of intensive in-school and after-school dedication. The students started their journey by taking a field trip to the San Rafael Swell in central-southern Utah earlier this year where they viewed and reflected on the Native American symbols seen there.

"I really enjoyed the atmosphere that we had on the field trip," said Sam Olesen, a senior at Jordan High. "We really got to just sit down and really speculate."

A large tree stands at the center of the mural, a monster derived from Native American stories beside it.

"The tree was kind of a symbol of all the artists working together," Olesen said.

Some of the students' portraits appear on the mural, as do swirling symbols like peacock feathers, butterflies and lizards.

"It evolved over time," Baddley said. "The smaller elements sort of crystallized over time."

Also incorporated in the painting are sugar beet fields, honoring the area's heritage, as are cityscapes and mountains.

Students captured some current events in the painting, including recent Occupy Wall Street protests in the work.

"We included all these subtle details," Olesen said.

The mural was a chance for the students to work together on a project that brought together ancient Native American symbols and the vision of very modern students.

"At school you're usually working on something smaller," Olesen said. "It was really fun to have the opportunity to work large scale."

E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com, Twitter: mollyfarmer

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