Will Wilson

Citizen of the Navajo Nation

Will Wilson (Navajo) was awarded a 2011 NACF Artist Fellowship in Visual Arts.
AWARDEE:  Will Wilson
NATIVE HERITAGE:  Citizen of the Navajo Nation
AWARD:  2021 SHIFT – Transformative Change and Indigenous Arts
DISCIPLINE:  Visual Arts
Diné College – BIO

Will Wilson is a photographer and trans-customary artist who spent his formative years living on the Navajo Nation. His photography practice centers around the continuation and transformation of customary Indigenous cultural practice, countering the ‘archival impulse’ embedded within the historical imageries of Native peoples. Through various methods of photography, Wilson combines digital technology, historic photographic processes, performance, and installation around themes of environmental activism, the impacts of cultural and environmental change on Indigenous peoples, and the possibility of cultural survival and renewal.

Wilson studied photography, sculpture, and art history at the University of New Mexico where he received his Master’s in Fine Arts. Wilson has been honored with the Eiteljorg Native American Fine Art Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Sculpture, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant for Photography and he was the Doran Artist in Residence at the Yale University Art Gallery. Wilson has held visiting professorships at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Oberlin College, and the University of Arizona. His work is exhibited and collected internationally, and he is Head of Photography at Santa Fe Community College.

Photography for me is about time travel. Its ability to indexically register the world as it arrests time and turns space into a transient narrative object that can be altered, manipulated, and transformed continually amazes me.

― Will Wilson (Citizen of the Navajo Nation)


Wilson’s SHIFT project, Reframing Indigenous Remediation: Uranium on Dinétah, will address the legacy of uranium extraction and processing on the Navajo Nation. The project will develop a photographic survey of Abandoned Uranium Mines and the frontline communities most impacted by them, and feature a lecture series hosted by the lead collaborating partner, Diné College, that brings together the interdisciplinary expertise of Indigenous artists, academics, scientists, policymakers, elders, and activists. Diné College will also integrate the project into their curricula and broader programmatic efforts.


Diné College was established in 1968 as the first tribally-controlled community college in the United States. In creating an institution of higher education, the Navajo Nation sought to encourage Navajo youth to become contributing members of the Navajo Nation and the world society. Today, Diné College serves a predominantly Navajo student population across the 27,000 square miles of the Navajo Nation that spans across the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The College offers General Education courses that provide students with a high-quality experience while earning various Certificate as well as Associate and Bachelor degree programs in the areas important to the economic, political, environmental, and social development of the Navajo Nation.