Spanning multiple galleries at the Wheelwright Museum, Memory Weaving: Works by Melanie Yazzie will run from May 13, 2018 through October 7, 2018. Melanie Yazzie is an extremely prolific artist and educator whose work has been included in many solo and international group exhibitions. She is well traveled, engaging with communities around the world. Her work appears in a plethora of museums, from Washington, D.C., to Australia. She has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of Arizona, Tucson, and is now the head of the printmaking department at the University of Colorado, Boulder. A significant part of her practice involves safe printmaking, using less toxic materials and processes.
The title Memory Weaving: Works by Melanie Yazzie refers to a conversation the artist had with one of her grandmothers, a weaver, who told her she was weaving with memories in her work. The exhibition will feature over 60 works, predominantly monotypes, but also prints incorporating drawn and painted elements. Additional works will include a selection of bronze sculptures in the Klah gallery, whimsically depicting animals such as dogs. There will be a selection of acrylic paintings on canvas, as well as a selection of linoleum blocks, wood blocks, tools, and other materials intended to illuminate the artist’s practice. A video featuring the artist will be on view in the Slater gallery, created especially for the exhibition by Wheelwright Museum intern Faith Toledo, with the support of her mentor James Hunyadi.
As a child, Melanie was instructed by her grandmother that traditional Navajo sandpainting imagery was inappropriate for use in commercial or secular artwork. “And so from a very early age I had this idea that my artwork had to be created from a different place, and not what most people think a Navajo artist would make. I’m not afraid to draw something that looks childlike,” Melanie reveals. “It’s my own mark making. That’s what makes it unique. For me, it contains everything real.”
Her prints take their inspiration from animals, plants, weaving designs and tools, and maps. A dragonfly with three sets of wings, signifying motion, appears in multiple pieces. A number of works include a charming character, a Navajo woman in a voluminous skirt with her hair tied up, often in silhouette, representing Melanie herself. Through the maps, she speaks about land base and its loss to indigenous people. It “reminds people that we were here before, this was part of our existence and part of who we are.” A group of large monotypes refers to places she has traveled. “Connections to many different people are held in those images,” says Melanie.
A notable selection of works refers to Melanie’s struggles with Type II diabetes. Numbers appear in the designs, referring to her daily blood sugar counts, because “there’s a whole conversation in the numbers that I feel is really important, and when I travel to different places it seems to be a common illness within the indigenous community and also in the wider community. It helps me connect with people.”
“I really believe in the power of making art to tell your story, to empower yourself, and to share and connect with other people,” states Melanie. This exhibition will reach audiences of all ages, who Melanie invites to learn about Native issues, history, and the significance of the symbols that appear throughout her work. Several printmaking workshops will be offered during the duration of the show.
We thank anonymous donors for their lead gift for Melanie Yazzie’s exhibition. For their generous gifts in honor of Melanie, we also thank Glenn Green Galleries, Mark and Polly Addison, and Beverly and Michael Morris.
For their generous support of all of our exhibitions in 2018, we express our gratitude to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Ludwig and Nancy Sternberger Charitable Foundation; Marcia and Alan Docter; Jim and Olga Hutson-Wiley, the Estate of Rex Bernard Mason; William and Marcia Berman; Charlotte G. Mittler; Martha L. Albrecht; Leonie F. Batkin and Ronald Thorn; William and Kathleen Howard; Phyllis Lehmberg; James V. and Dana Pope Manning; David and Joan Wenger; Darla and George Cox; Mary Dale and Jim Gordon; Daniel Hidding; Patricia MacLaughlin; Sally and T. G. Mittler; Sallyann Paschall; the Young Boozer Family Foundation; New Mexico Arts, a Division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts; and many other donors.