Navajo artist Venaya Yazzie hopes to use an art exhibit at The Farm Bistro in Cortez to educate viewers on Native American beliefs.
Yazzie, a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, mixes painting, drawing, poetry, photography and other media in her art, which draws heavily from Native American mythology. She sees visual art as a way to tell stories. Her latest series of works, called “Second 2 Fourth: The Worlds of Ancestral Relatives,” focuses on part of the Navajo origin story.
Yazzie, who lives in Farmington, has displayed her artwork in galleries throughout the Four Corners. Some of it has traveled through Europe as part of the 2014 group exhibition “Indigenous Brilliance.”
This will be her first solo exhibit at The Farm but not the first time she has displayed her work in Cortez. She was a featured artist at the Desert Pearl Gallery on Main Street before it closed. She also contributed to The Farm’s recent “Animal Art Works” exhibit, for which she created a drawing of a bird layered over a map of Navajo country.
That piece inspired her to create a whole series of drawings about the “Second World,” which, according to traditional Navajo stories, is the home of the bird people and one of three worlds through which humans traveled before reaching the “Fourth World” where they live today. The series combines drawings of New Mexico birds, maps of the Four Corners and passages from Navajo stories about the Second World.
It’s a follow-up to her previous “First World” series, which focused on insects.
Yazzie said her goal in creating art is to help fellow Native Americans get in touch with their heritage and to educate non-Natives about her culture. It’s one of the reasons she likes showing exhibits in the Cortez area, she said.
“We have a strong history in this place,” she said. “There are so many sites around here, like Mesa Verde, Hovenweep ... you could even talk about Bears Ears. They all connect back to our history and our stories.”
The drawings are also designed to help give viewers a greater appreciation for “the small things,” like birds, Yazzie said. She said she thinks birds don’t get as much attention from animal lovers as dogs and cats do, and she hopes to change that.
During the exhibit opening, she said, she will tell some of the stories that inspired her work, and talk about the lessons they were designed to teach. Her work will remain on display in the restaurant through April 16.