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Mother takes flexes talent with paintbrush

Mother takes flexes talent with paintbrush

By Geri Hongeva
Special to the Times

FLAGSTAFF

Janet M. Yazzie, a mother of four, discovered her artistic skills and decided to become a full-time artist.

Yazzie, 46, on Friday, spoke about her journey, what makes her happy, her family, her children, her husband, and her paintings.

While her children were little, she worked different jobs in sales, retail, and food services. Also, she went to Northland Pioneer College and Coconino Community College to be an educator like her mother, but she realized it wasn’t her passion.

Yazzie began to take art classes while at Northland Pioneer College. She started with charcoal, pencils, and wood carvings. One of her first art pieces was for a friend who wanted a painting of aspen trees. Her husband had also asked her to paint a twisty windy tree for him, now a mural in their home.

To overcome her fear of creating large murals, she took on the challenge of painting the Hundred Acre Wood scene from Winnie the Pooh, which spanned three walls at the church she attends with her family.

In 2019, she set up her art creations during the Puente de Hózhó Holiday Bazaar; she enjoyed talking to people who stopped by her booth and even made some profit. She painted some small portraits and made some ornaments; mostly, she enjoyed networking and getting to know the other artisans.

When the Covid pandemic hit, she left her job at the Flagstaff Medical Center and focused on her paintings and painting techniques. With more free time, she was asked to illustrate the cover of a book, The Gray Son by Jeffrey Mark, published in 2020. She painted a horse in front of a log cabin deep in the dark green forest to captivate readers.

Yazzie is Kinłichíi’nii and born for Mą’ii Deeshgiizhinii, her maternal grandfather is Tséńjíkiní, and her paternal grandfathers are Tł’ízíłání.

Special to the Times | Geri Hongeva
An acrylic painting by Janet M. Yazzie shows a windmill in a sunset sky.

She was very close to her maternal grandmother. She carries fond memories of her and being with her in the cornfield, holding her hand. She shares special scenes from her childhood, growing up on Navajo land and helping her grandmother with her sheep and livestock. She smiles when she talks about her grandmother, so proud to share her life as a Navajo woman.

She is the eldest child with two sisters and two brothers. Her father was Jack Benally, working at Keams Canyon Hospital, and Julia Benally, her mother, was a teacher. Janet lived in Greasewood, attended Ganado, Toyei, and Sun Valley Boarding School, and graduated from Holbrook High School. While in school, she enjoyed playing basketball, volleyball, and softball.

“We don’t have a lot of women artists. I feel very blessed to be a part of this group. They give me advice, pointers, and show me how art shows are done,” explained artist Janet M. Yazzie. “We help the young artists who are interested; we do live murals and support each other. We also do fundraising for Buddy Whitethorne Foundation, a nonprofit for scholarships.”

Fellow artisans like Randall J. Wilson took time to show her more about colors and play with the palette, showing her how colors can transform a painting and emotion. Yazzie is energetic when she talks about her pictures and expresses a part of who she is in each image. They each have a meaning, a sentiment.

Yazzie’s children are not so young anymore. She spent most of her life raising her children and is now discovering her artistic talent. Like most mothers, she invested more than two decades into her children’s health and education, and now it is time for her to release the creativity she was born with. She shared with me how blessed she is to have a supportive spouse who has encouraged her to continue to paint. The support her family gives her fuels her energy to do more.

“I was approached by Grand Canyon National Park to do live painting demonstrations this coming year and also to be a part of the fundraiser event Palette to Palette for Coconino Community College Fine Arts Department,” said Yazzie.

Yazzie was the NAU featured artist from January through May 2022 and has been accepted to be a part of the Santa Fe Indian Market, SWAIA, in August 2022. Her creations are all stamped with the “Redhouse Art” label. Her advice to young artists, keep practicing if that’s what they want to do, put their mind to it, then they can do it. It is never too late to start your expression through art.

Yazzie is the newest member of Art of the People Inc. Nate Begay recruited her.


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