Navajo weaver Melissa Cody is a child of the ’80s, and it shows in her work.
"I grew up with Pac-Man and arcade games," says Cody, a 22-year-old art student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. "In a sense, I incorporate all the colors from all the cartoons into my work."
Cody’s use of blues, pinks, yellows and reds is shaking up the traditional art of Navajo weaving.
"I still use traditional techniques," says Cody, whose work will be on display this weekend during the 56th annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture in Flagstaff. "But this color palette is so vibrant, it gives me options to be bold and loud with what I’m doing."
Like most Navajo women, Cody learned the art of weaving from her mother. Cody watched her mother, Lola, weave on a traditional loom. The older woman treated weaving like an art form and inspired her daughter, then 5, to do the same. Cody was entering art shows and winning awards at age 10.
"She’s very exciting to us because she’s working in an ancient art form, and yet she’s clearly doing something different," says Robert Breunig, director of the Museum of Northern Arizona. "There’s an electric quality about her weaving."
Cody isn’t the only artist to bring a new perspective to traditional art forms. Younger artists are contributing to the evolution of Navajo art in a wide variety of forms, says Breunig. When the festival debuted more than 50 years ago, weaving was the only art form on display. This year, festivalgoers will see the works of Navajo potters, painters, metalworkers and basket weavers.
In addition to art, visitors will learn about the heritage of the largest Indian tribe in the United States. Heritage Insights, a program sponsored by the Arizona Humanities Council, will offer presentations on Navajo language, worldview and history.
Take Interstate 17 north to Flagstaff. The museum is three miles north of downtown Flagstaff on U.S. 180.
56th annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture
What: Artists, musicians, dancers and chefs from the United States’ largest Indian tribe celebrate their culture
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday
Where: Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N. Fort Valley Road, Flagstaff
Cost: $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 students and $2 children ages 7 to 17
Information: (928) 774-5213 or www.musnaz.org