Navajo Artist Rethinks Iconic Monument Valley in “Draw Me a Picture” Exhibit

Artist Steven Yazzie, Navajo, on location in Monument Valley filming “Draw Me a Picture,” October 2006.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Venture on a wild ride through the isolated landscape of Monument Valley in the exhibition “Draw Me a Picture” by Navajo artist Steven Yazzie, opening January 27, 2007.

For decades, Monument Valley was used as a backdrop in Hollywood Westerns that depicted American Indians in racist terms. These films fed into a mythology of the American West in which Indians were either stoic noblemen or fierce savages. In “Draw Me a Picture,” Yazzie challenges these stereotypes of Indian identity by re-envisioning this landscape from a fresh, alert vantage point.

From the driver’s seat of a self-styled art car, Yazzie winds along a red dirt road into Monument Valley while simultaneously creating drawings-in-motion of the dramatic red rock formations passing by. Powered only by gravity, the art car is “part sculpture, part rolling studio” according to curator Joe Baker. “Fitted with an attached easel, [the car] allows the artist to be in motion while drawing the advancing landscape.” The entire process is captured on film.

“Draw Me a Picture” shatters outmoded thinking about Indians by offering a new representation of this well-known American landscape. According to Baker, “through his actions and urgent drawings of Monument Valley, [Yazzie] reclaims this picture, making it his own by creating images that are free of expectations and stereotypical gestures of ‘Indianess.’ The final result is drawing that is alert to self, place, and time.”

Filmed on a three-day trip to the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona, “Draw Me a Picture” is the latest work in Yazzie’s “Drawing and Driving” series. This series, which investigates the artist’s relationship to landscape, evolved during a 2006 summer artist residency at the renowned Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.

The art car, along with original drawings and paintings and a large scale video projection of the 1925 silent film, “The Vanishing American,” will be on view in “Draw Me a Picture,” which opens January 27, 2007, at the Heard Museum. Opening day, at 2 p.m., don’t miss a special gallery talk by artist Steven Yazzie and curator Joe Baker, at the Heard Museum. The opening and talk are free with regular museum admission.

For more information and a behind the scenes look at the filming of “Draw Me a Picture,” visit “Upcoming Exhibitions” on the Heard Museum website.

[News release provded by Nicole Haas at the Heard Museum.]

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