Kelvin Yazzie is a Navajo (Dine’) artist who grew up in Church Rock, New Mexico. He has an extensive body of work that includes ceramic sculpture, painting, and printmaking. He presently teaches art at Pima Community College in Tucson.
Kelvin has exhibited his work and taught art in correctional facilities, treatment centers, and at the Tucson Center for the Deaf and Blind, where his wife Donna has worked for years. He has traveled to Australia, exhibiting his work there and working with Aboriginal artists. He has also traveled to Romania to work with deaf and blind populations. Kelvin works with people that are often overlooked or underestimated. He has shared that his grandfather, who was a medicine man, informed him about the importance of looking at all people for their unique qualities. His art making often becomes an extension of this, exploring the gifts of the “misfits.”
“From growing up on the rez, I also acknowledge the strong maternal influence in my culture, which helped me to realize my mother Agnes’ vision and intent of a good education. With the help of faculty and fellow students and family, I have a unique perspective as a result of assimilation [at age 9, Kelvin left the reservation to live with a Mormon family and go to school in Utah]. This perspective has given me a better understanding and appreciation as to how I balance myself between mainstream society and the rez. Between square way of thinking and circle way of thinking, between female and male.”
Keep an eye out for Kelvin at the local Pow Wows in Tucson, dancing in full regalia, or dancing in front of the courthouse on Columbus Day.
Read more about Kelvin Yazzie in this article from the Navajo-Hopi Observer.
Elvis The King
Elvis the King is a ceramic sculpture by Kelvin Yazzie that lives at the land. The form is inspired by the regal-ness of the animal life that has a resilience and chooses to live in the desert. It is a pit-fired piece created in his backyard then brought out to the land. He often speaks of how clay brought him back to his roots. As he worked with it, he found himself remembering words in Navajo from his childhood before he moved away from the reservation. He found himself remembering when he was a kid of being close to the land, playing for hours in the mud, gathering clay in his hands from the cliff walls.