Melanie Yazzie is an artist who lives and works in Boulder, CO, where she is Professor of Art at the University of Colorado. The works included in the exhibition feature a variety of circular relief plates that Yazzie carved with her husband Clark Barker. She states that “the works challenge the idea of what most see as a good, proper print. The works are made fast paced and they are about the action of making them and producing them to capture a moment and energy that is not still. You can feel a movement in these works. When I am producing an edition of work they are more controlled and printed in a very formal way. The works here are speaking about a morning walk I take and the vibration I see around. It is honoring the moment and I hope to capture the feeling of being quiet and still–the unpredictable is what I am after with this series of work.”
Yazzie is Navajo of the Salt and Bitter Water Clans and grew up on the Navajo reservation. She has been an influential teacher as well as practicing artist and recently celebrated in a major artist retrospective at the University of New Mexico.
Her printing approach feels experimental yet rooted in her heritage. Her artist statement reveals, “My artwork is culturally based in my heritage of being a Diné (Navajo) person. The artworks stem from the thought and belief that what we create must have beauty and harmony from within ourselves, from above, below, in front, behind, and from our core. We are taught to seek out beauty and create it with our thoughts and prayers. I feel that when I am making my art, be it a print, a painting or a sculpture, I begin by centering myself and thinking it all out in a ‘good way’, which is how I was taught from an early age. My work speaks about travel and transformation.”
Several of Yazzie’s works have been accessioned into the MAM’s print portfolio project collection. She was a participant in MAM Native Perspectives on the Trail in 2004, which traveled throughout the Northwest. She teaches two-dimensional art and is sought after as an informative and insightful lecturer. Yazzie has taken part in collaborative art projects with indigenous artists in New Zealand, Siberia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Japan. She has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts, the College of Santa Fe, University of Arizona, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Pont-Aven School of Art in France.
The exhibition is hosted in the Lynda M. Frost Contemporary American Indian Art Gallery, a gallery dedicated to honor the creative cultural contributions of American Indian people to contemporary art, and to ensure that Indian artists will always have a place to celebrate that contribution. The artist residency is supported by MATRIX Print Workshop at the School of Art at The University of Montana.