Diné/Laguna Pueblo/Anglo, b. 1970
Nature Doesn’t Give a #%*! About You, But It’s Sure Nice To Look At, 2020
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist
In Steven Yazzie’s 2020 diptych Nature Doesn’t Give a #%*! About You, But It’s Sure Nice To Look At, the artist explores what he calls the “liminal moment where ideas, meanings, and interpretations form.” In the panel on the left, Yazzie renders himself in a bright orange jumpsuit. At first glance it’s reminiscent of the sort of jumpsuit a prison inmate would wear, yet upon looking again, you realize the jumpsuit is camouflage—albeit an inert camouflage, as the artist sits in a woodland setting atop a boulder in a creek—giving the feeling of hiding in plain sight. Yazzie looks over his shoulder across to the other panel of the diptych, where we see Coyote. Coyote sits in a blue armchair inside the artist’s studio. Unfinished paintings occupy the floor and the walls, while a teal curtain is pulled to the side. The curtain motif has been utilized throughout art history as a mechanism for signaling the revelation of truth. What truth is being revealed here is unclear, as the artist states, “I’m not going to explain or give everything away about this diptych. Even if I wanted to, a painting contains its own life; it reveals itself in unanticipated ways.” The artist and Coyote occupy one another’s territory, illuminating a role reversal or liminal perspective.
Steven J. Yazzie is a multidisciplinary artist working in video, painting, and installation. He is a member of the Navajo Nation and a veteran of the Gulf War, serving honorably with the U.S. Marine Corps. He received a BFA in intermedia at Arizona State University and was named the 2014 outstanding graduate of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. He also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Yazzie is the co-founder of Digital Preserve LLC, a video production company collaborating with artists, filmmakers and interdisciplinary creatives to produce meaningful content and stories that highlight Indigenous issues. Yazzie’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, the Heard Museum, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art, and the Wheelwright Museum.