Turquoise Tortoise Gallery has carried the work of sculptor
Lance Yazzie since he was sixteen years old. Yazzie has
gone on to win first place in sculpture at the Santa
Fe Indian Market, Best of Division at the Heard Museum
in Phoenix and many other awards. Shifts in his work
have allowed him to encompass not only the traditional
forms of his Navajo (Diné) culture but contemporary
pieces with a Modern Art feel.
Yazzie's more abstract art
of modern styles allows for the reflection of a very
personal and cultural sensibility to come through; a
sensibility that goes directly to the soul of what this
artist wishes to express. "When I use negative space
in my sculptures, I feel like it allows room for the
viewer to get inside the piece," says Yazzie.
At thirteen, Yazzie began carving
traditional Native American fetish designs. By sixteen
he had advanced to "table fetishes" - sculptures
up to 20" long. Today these fetishes are sleeker
and his surfaces remarkably refined; they are carved
from stones ranging from orange translucent alabaster
to marble to limestone. Protection, wisdom and strength
are just a few of the meanings attached to the bear,
a frequent subject. "All tribes have their own interpretation
of the animal's significance," Yazzie explains. "I
humbly offer my sculpture. Trying to create a modern
design from an ancient idea is what I strive for."
When Yazzie creates his contemporary
sculpture he does not try to stay within strict guidelines
of Native American art; this past year has seen him bring
more textures, images and symbolism to his contemporary
pieces. "The symbolism is not only meaningful to
Native people but to all of us. I try to leave it open
so people can find their own meaning," Yazzie says.
Current concepts being explored reflect designs that
have originated in traditional Dinè rug patterns
or pictographs from cliff-sides. Re-interpreting into
three dimensions what these flat images represent Yazzie
allows negative space to become a cloud or lightning;
carved limestone may become the mountain before it.
It can take up to six months
to complete a project and Yazzie always ends up going
above and beyond with his efforts. "I learned that
from my dad [world-renowned sculptor Larry Yazzie] .
. . he taught me that it is like a gift you send with