Paint Studio at the Denver Art Museum

Paint Studio Demo Artist Melanie Yazzie

Melanie Yazzie will be in the Paint Studio March 19–20.

Hilary Gibson: I know that you are primarily a printmaker, but you also work in paint mediums. What is it about paint and the process of painting that intrigues you?

Melanie Yazzie: What I love about painting is that it’s so immediate. You can add layer upon layer of paint. The medium is so flexible and is always leading in new directions. Often I’ll start the painting thinking it will go in one direction and it will end up in a completely different one.

Contemporary artist Melanie Yazzie

HG: Right, as opposed to printmaking where what you print is what you get.

MY: Exactly.

HG: What are you doing when you’re not creating art?

MY: Teaching art! In addition to being a faculty member at the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, I’m also a professor of printmaking in the department of art & art history.

HG: You sound like you’ve got a full plate. How do you manage to find time to work on your own art? What are you working on currently?

MY: Oh yes, I’m always, always making art. It’s actually demanded and required by the university that we [the art professors] continually develop our own art and remain working artists. I’m continually painting and sewing and currently I’m working on a series of bronzes.

HG: Not only a painter and printmaker, but also a sculptor! Can you tell me more about this bronze series?

MY: It’s a series of animal pieces reflecting different experiences that I had in my childhood in Arizona.

HG: So you’ve done quite a bit here at the museum before – some of your work is currently on show and in 2012 you were our Native Arts Artist-in-Residence. How will your demonstrations this spring differ from those you’ve done in the past?

MY: As opposed to the focus of my residency, for my first demonstration, I’ll be painting on wooden panels. Then for my second demonstration [in March] I’ll be using gouache on handmade paper.

Melanie Yazzie is a sculptor, painter and printmaker guided in her work by a defining tenet of her Dine (Navajo) heritage translated as “walk in beauty.” Working to create beauty and harmony, her art often draws both upon her personal experiences and on symbols and events important to Dine culture. As an artist Ms. Yazzie’s mission is to encourage others to learn about the phenomena that shape the lives of contemporary Native peoples in the United States and beyond. She has travelled the world to connect with indigenous peoples from Russia to New Zealand in order to develop a dialogue about Indigenous cultural practices, language, song, storytelling, and survival.

Ms. Yazzie is a professor of printmaking in the department of art & art history at University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado. Her works are visible in many galleries and museums including, but not limited to, the Glenn Green Galleries in Santa Fe, the Phippen Museum, The National Gallery of Australia, and the RISD Museum.

Her work, My Quilt, a silkscreen on cottonpatch work, is currently on view through July 30 at the DAM in the Strong Statements exhibition.

Hilary Gibson is an intern with the studio and artists programs in the department of learning and engagement. Her favorite section of the DAM to wander around in is the exhibition of western American art in the Hamilton Building. When not at the museum, Hilary spends an inordinate amount of time eating green chili and driving between Denver and her home in Pueblo, Colorado.

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