Apache elder Judy Tallwing was born Judy Browning in Glendale, Arizona, the daughter of Ruby Browning and Archer Donoho. Judy holds vivid childhood memories of living in the desert with her parents and seven half brothers and sisters, helping to hunt rattlesnakes, and selling rocks by the roadside. From their five-acre home in Washington State, Judy, like many Native American children, attended both Catholic girls' school and Indian School. Tallwing now has six children, 23 grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
Judy started making art as far back as she can remember. "We didn't call it art, we called it making things to sell along the road to help the family survive. I used to watch my Grandmother, Grandfather, and my Mother all doing various forms of what I now know is art, to sell, and I wanted to help." Her first thing that sold was a bee sitting on a flower, painted on a rock. It sold for .25 cents.
In her youth, Judy did a little bit of everything, from running her own construction and leather production companies to being the executive director of a domestic violence victims program and running an animal rescue for 13 years. "I think an 'aha moment' for me was realizing I could go to college, even without much other schooling." Starting college at age 32 changed her life; she now holds both an AA and BA degree. Judy always painted or created some form of art. "I love trying to bring the stories I've heard to life and to add the spiritual aspects of the stories through the medicine of different elements of nature. Each thing that lives on the earth has its own energy and I try to put those energies together to create a healing." Judy travels to power places on the earth and brings back tiny fragments from those places to put in ever painting or sculpture that calls for them, including copper, silver, turquoise, garnet, prayer ashes, and minute crystal prayer beads.
Judy believes that stories are the most important way we pass on our histories and they're our most powerful teaching tools. "Stories can be used to guide us; to help us heal; to make us laugh. I've been telling stories all my life, whether it was from a stage, in front of a campfire, on canvas or to a room of kids... I want to do as my grandfather said–make the world a bit better because Creator let me be here for a while."