Sandpainting is an art form that has evolved from the traditional healing ceremonies of the Navajo people. The Navajo word for sandpainting is 'iika'a'h, "place where the gods come and go." During the ceremonies the medicine man, or hata'a'lee, will create the sandpainting to summon the Holy People who temporarily inhabit the sandpainting using their powers to restore the health of the patient.
The sandpaintings are made from sandstone and minerals that are ground to a fine consistency and applied one layer at a time to a wood backing with a special glue mixture. The sand is not painted. The design may depict one of the many traditional healing designs or a contemporary theme such as still-life and landscapes. The quality of a sandpainting is determined by the complexity of the design and the fineness of the materials used. Finely ground sand and the skilled hand of the Navajo artist produce beautiful works of art.