As a printmaker, painter, and sculptor, Melanie Yazzie’s work draws upon her rich Diné (Navajo) cultural heritage. She is of the Salt and Bitter Water clans. Her work follows the Diné dictum “walk in beauty” literally, creating beauty and harmony. As an artist, she works to serve as an agent of change by encouraging others to learn about social, cultural, and political phenomena shaping the contemporary lives of Native peoples in the United States and beyond. Her work incorporates both personal experiences as well as the events and symbols from Dine culture. Her early work focused on depictions of the harsh realities of Native peoples (i.e., racism, identity conflict, poverty, abuse, etc.) to bring to Native issues to the forefront, but more recently she is making work with a positive twist. Due to personal health issues and trying to live a calmer life style, she is focusing on quiet and balance, her work is reflecting this shift. Her work is informed and shaped by personal experiences and tries to tell many stories about things both real and imagined. The history of Native America and Native peoples includes forced assimilation and cultural genocide that has occurred due in great part to government boarding schools. Native youth and communities today are burdened with the consequences of this history and by an educational system that prioritizes knowledge foreign to Native community’s indigenous knowledge. Something she stresses in her teaching is the use of safe, non-toxic methods of printmaking in her work.
Ms. Yazzie uses her travels around the world to connect with other indigenous peoples. Her visits to New Zealand, the Arctic, to native peoples of Russia, and to many native nations in the United States have been the impetus for continued dialogue about aboriginal cultural practices, language, song, storytelling, and survival. In addition to showing her work throughout the United States, she has had exhibitions and demonstrations and has lectured in, among other places, Japan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Russia, Finland, Bulgaria, South Africa and Estonia.
One of her most recent exhibitions titled, “Mappings: Selected Recent Works of Melanie Yazzie”, featured twenty-four new paintings at the O’Sullivan Art Gallery at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. The paintings depict prayer, ceremony, and ritual, including images of ceremonial foods. For the Diné people, these paintings represent a stronger, more direct connection to the intimate aspects of ceremonial life and life routines. She has just returned from having a solo exhibition in Hastings, New Zealand and 5 solo exhibitions planned for: Westtown, Pennsylvania, Davis, California, Reno, Nevada, Helskini, Finland and Tenerife, Canary Islands and was artist-in-residence in October at Crow Shadow Institute of the Arts in Pendleton, Oregon. In 2011, she had a solo exhibition of paintings inspired by the Denver Botanic Gardens called “Storykeeper: Works By Melanie Yazzie”. Ms. Yazzie often collaborates on her work to demonstrate how people from different cultures and places can use the art process to create pieces with a shared meaning. For the 2010 exhibition “The Rain Has Come: Melanie Yazzie & Sue Pearson” at Tawera Studio Gallery in Gisborne, New Zealand, the two artists painted on linen then layered their works so Yazzie’s Dine inspired motifs combined with Pearson’s images from her Norfolk Island ancestry. These pieces created a strong visual and tangible method from which to share our story with others. In 2012, she had a three-month on-site studio residency at the Denver Art Museum.
She has taught at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The College of Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Pont-Aven School of Art in France.
Her work is in The Australian National Gallery and the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence and in other prominent international collections. She has been reviewed in “Focus Magazine”, Santa Fe, the Los Angeles Times, New Zealand Herald, and she is mentioned in “Printmaking in the Sun” by Dan Welden and Pauline Muir, “Native American Art in the Twentieth Century” by W. Jackson Rushing III, and “The Lure of the Local: Sense of Place in a Multi-Centered Society” by Lucy Lippard. She has had over 100 group and solo exhibitions combined. Yazzie makes prints, sculptures, paintings, and mixed media works.
Melanie Yazzie's art work is exclusively represented by Glenn Green Galleries since 1994