Artist of the Month: Steven Yazzie

Artist of the Month: Steven Yazzie

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Arts Issue: February 2017
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Most humans experience the world through five senses – sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing – but Phoenix-based tribal artist Steven J. Yazzie relies on a sixth sense to enrich his multimedia projects: the sense of place. To create his newest exhibition, a four-channel video and sound installation titled Black White Blue Yellow (“BWBY”), Yazzie – who traces his lineage to both the Navajo and Laguna tribes – frequently hiked four mountains that border the Diné/Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona. “Mountains have a special place in our spiritual consciousness, and my intention with BWBY is to evoke a sense of our human connection to these landforms in an immersive environment of video and sound,” Yazzie, 46, says.

While traversing the four mountains – each of which is sacred to the Navajo people, Yazzie explains, and associated with protection, stories, a gender and a color – he documented his journey on video, “filming the landscapes from a number of different vantage points,” and also created “a lot of field recordings of audio sounds that I’ve manipulated and experimented with to create new sounds.”

Staff at Heard Museum removed a wall to allow visitors to see all four video channels activated, and will provide central seating inside the installation for a more immersive, communal experience. “The installation design is really focused on opening up the experience for the viewer, so they can find and make connections of their own,” Yazzie says.

Black White Blue Yellow (“BWBY”) opens February 3 at Heard Museum and remains on display through September 12. Visit stevenyazzie.com and heard.org for more information.

— Niki D’Andrea