Wentja Napaltjarri was born around 1945 in the Gibson Desert and grew up west of Kintore in her father’s country. Wentja Napaltjarri, who is the daughter of one of the founders of the Aboriginal art movement at Papunya, Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi, and has been painting all of her life. Wentja Napaltjarri’s first paintings were collaborative, helping out the men in the family with their work. While they painted the stories or iconographic elements, Wentja Napaltjarri did the in-fill dotting, characteristic of the Pintupi desert artists.
Wentja Napaltjarri’s own career began when she created her first paintings for Watiyawanu Artists at Amunturrngu (Mt Liebig). Since that time Wentja Napaltjarri has achieved high recognition for her work and in 2002 she was a finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.
The main subjects for Wentja Napaltjarri’s paintings are Blue Tongue Lizard and Water Dreaming stories, handed down from her father. Wentja Napaltjarri also paints sandhills, rockholes, and other landmarks associated with water and Desert Oaks. Wentja Napaltjarri’s paintings are less geometric than her father’s and show a softening of iconography through the use of intricate, finely-worked dots. This soft dotting technique is characteristic of many of the well-known Aboriginal women artists who have emerged from Mt Liebig. Wentja Napaltjarri’s palette reflects the warm colours of the central desert country.
Wentja Napaltjarri is a highly individual artist little influenced by other painters working around her and has developed a distinctive and consistent style characterized by subtle variations in colour and texture. Wentja Napaltjarri lives at Mt Liebig with husband, Ginger Tjakamarra (son of well known artist Makinti Napanangka), and with her sons.