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 Sybil L. Yazzie  (early 20th century)

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Lived/Active: Arizona      Known for: Navajo ceremonial genre painting-miniature figure, animal

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A member of the Navajo nation, Sybil Yazzie painted brightly colored scenes, usually in tempera, of her native culture, especially scenes that are a "tapestry of Navajo ceremonial life."  Characteristic of her paintings, which have been described as "portraits of intimate ritual moments", (82) are miniature figures and animals and detailed clothing decoration.  Yazzie was a student of Dorothy Dunn in 1937 at the Santa Fe Indian School, and that year had an elaborate painting, her most complex, exhibited in London and Paris. 

Titled A Crowd At a Navajo N'DA-A, it had been painted two years earlier and included 170 Navajo figures in traditional dress and 59 of the figures sitting on horses.  The occasion was a Squaw Dance, an event that lasted all night and that celebrated the coming of marriageable age of Navajo girls.  "Young men come to the Squaw Dance to sing, dance, and look over prospective brides." (81)

Other paintings by Yazzie are Navajo Wedding (1936) with the subjects sitting on traditional woven blankets for the occasion, and Navajo Weavers (1935), showing the dignity of women making the rugs, which are signature creations of the Navajo tribe.

Of her student, Dorothy Dunn wrote:  "Sybil Yazzie excelled in miniature.  Scores of horses and human figures filled her paintings so rich in color and imaginative in statement.  Her broadly inclusive ceremonials would shine in the dark or sparkle in the sunlight;  she had a gift for selecting the right color hues and values for chosen occasions.  Within the larger patterns, her tiny motifs of necklaces, bracelets, belts, hatbands, harnesses, fringes, and like ornaments studded each scene with meticulously wrought decoration."

Patricia Broder, "Sybil Yazzie", Earth Songs, Moon Dreams, p. 80-86

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