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UM School of Art showcases Anthony Yazzie's recent paintings

By Lailani Upham

Anthony Yazzie answers question about his art at the “Odyssey of the Stars” event. (Courtesy photo)Anthony Yazzie answers question about his art at the “Odyssey of the Stars” event. (Courtesy photo)

MISSOULA — Anthony James Yazzie, Salish and Navajo, raised on the Flathead Reservation and born into the Navajo Clan “Bitter Water,” is finding exposure for his creative message and recognition in the art world.

Yazzie is a senior at the University Of Montana School Of Art working on a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting.

Yazzie’s art work was featured at the fourteenth annual College of Visual and Performing Arts Odyssey of the Stars—A Celebration of Artistic Journeys this past Saturday at the UM theater. Odyssey of the Stars honors outstanding UM arts alumni and to tell the story of their artistic journeys. The event serves also as the premier benefit event for the College of Visual and Performing Arts Scholarship Fund that raises money for scholarships to support promising students in their own artistic journeys.

Yazzie’s work was chosen alongside other students to be showcased. A five to 10 minute movie was also part of the project he says that focused on individual processes of styles of art.

Yazzie’s work parallels with issues of racism and integration he says. He grew up in primary non-Native school, het grew up learning the traditional ways of the Native American Church from his father, Curtis Yazzie.

(L to R):  First painting is called, "Biligana Ch,??díí',"  “The Red Road: Steps of Life,” "The Red Road: Balancing Act I;" the second painting is named, "Keep the Injun on the Rez.” (Courtesy photo)(L to R): First painting is called, "Biligana Ch,??díí'," “The Red Road: Steps of Life,” "The Red Road: Balancing Act I;" the second painting is named, "Keep the Injun on the Rez.” (Courtesy photo)

“For the past two years I have been working with the ideas of duality in relation to my own identity. As an Indian in a primarily white community, I sense how others may need to place me in a category in order to feel comfortable. Not only is this misguided; it is also impossible as I tread multiple realities on a daily basis. My artwork attempts to explain this situation using personal iconography delivered in bold color, rigid texture, scraping, cutting and other physical handling of the materials.”

Anthony goes on to explain that his process to create includes heavy bodies of acrylic paint, colored pencils and ink; both sequentially and symbolically. “The first layer references my experience with the Native American Church; the second layer incorporates both Salish and Navajo traditional symbolism and beadwork designs; and the final layer uses iconography that is broadly based autobiographical.”

Yazzie states while much of his first two layers are covered up in the process, he feels it is important they exist. “They figuratively and literally act as the foundation for the painting you now see,” he adds.

His proud mother, Gigi Yazzie describes his motivation to culturally communicate artistically, “Anthony’s art skills came from his own drive and determination. He has put his heart and soul into every piece of art he has ever created. Anthony has entered a few juried Art shows, made art from ceramics to photography in this process he has discovered he loves to work with acrylic, because he says his time is valuable and doesn’t have time to wait on his art to dry. Simply because he has to keep moving on to another master piece.”

His father Curtis is also excited about his work. “What an extraordinary journey it has been, and it’s still just the beginning. So proud of what (Anthony) has done and can’t wait to see what’s next for him.”

Recognizing some of Anthony’s artwork as controversial pieces, his father Curtis says he is not only proud of the talent his son carries, but the courage he holds with it.

“My heart soars with eagles,” he adds.

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