A black and white photo of Melanie Yazzie and a color photo of close up of her hands making a sculpture

3-D Studio Demo Artist Melanie Yazzie

Melanie Yazzie will be in the 3-D Studio demonstrating 3-D animal sculpting December 9-10.

Melanie Yazzie is Dine’ from Northeastern Arizona. She is a professor of art and the head of printmaking at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. She makes prints, paintings, and sculpture. Since 2015 she has taken on being a jewelry designer and fabric surface designer. A former Native Arts Artist-in-Residence here at the DAM, Yazzie has exhibited nationally and internationally for the past 25 years and continues to push the boundaries with her work with each project she takes on.

Megan Farlow: What will your demonstration look like at the DAM?

Melanie Yazzie: I will be working on a clay piece by hand-building an animal.

MF: How has your background influenced you as an artist?

MY: I have often made work in 3-D inspired by my early years in school on the Navajo Nation. I have always wanted to share that part of my life with people.

MF: I’ve noticed that your animal sculptures often have unique names such as Barkerlee Yazzie Keeps Cool at Ganado Lake. What inspires the names of your sculptures?

MY: They were inspired by childhood bullies. Naming the works by using common Navajo names from home that related to those times in my life. I made something from not so great times into works that made me smile and lift my spirits. I left the bully ideas behind and now focus on the good in life but still use common names from home.

MF: Your sculptures also have a variety of symbols on them. Can you describe the background of these symbols?

MY: The symbols are flowers, bugs, and things from home. They bring depth and movement to the surface of my works. We all exist with layers on us.

MF: Lastly, you have been an artist in the Denver area for a while now, has your subject matter or approach to your work changed over the years, and if so, how?

MY: It has changed in that I own my images and my stories and feel more comfortable than ever in making my work, I do not feel the need to explain or justify the work to anyone anymore. Well not that I ever did, so much, but a younger me always questioned my work. Now I own it and love it. It tells an important story and helps more people than I could ever imagine. I am helping people see who I am and who my people are in many ways.

Megan Farlow is a studio and artist programs intern in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum. She enjoys the museum’s American Indian art collection, especially works by Jeffrey Gibson.

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