“Two monotypes that speak about waterways and how we must follow them for our health and for guidance. The prints are also about my travels to New Zealand, where I followed river ways and water ways to different locations. They tell a story and hold hope for us — we belong to them.”
Melanie Yazzie is an internationally renowned printmaker, painter, and sculptor, whose work draws upon her rich Diné (Navajo) cultural heritage. Her work follows the Diné dictum “walk in beauty” literally to create beauty and harmony. As an artist, she works 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 personal experiences, as well as the events and symbols from Diné culture. Her early work brought Native issues to the forefront with depictions of the harsh realities of Native peoples (i.e., racism, identity conflict, poverty, abuse, etc.), but more recently she is making work focusing on quiet and balance. Her work is 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, 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 communities’ indigenous knowledge. Yazzie uses her world travels to connect with other indigenous peoples — in New Zealand, the Arctic, Russia and the Pueblos in the Southwest – the impetus for continued dialogue about cultural practices, language, song, story-telling, and survival.
Yazzie is an associate professor and head of printmaking in the Department of Art and Art History at University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado. She considers a global impact in her work, striving to create safe, non-toxic methods of printmaking where toxic chemicals are commonly used.