Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content
Hilltop Pinon painting by Elmer Yazzie

Art Auction: Artist Biography

Elmer Yazzie, Navajo artist

Elmer YazzieBorn in Shirprock, New Mexico, (’54), Yazzie is an enrolled member of the Navajo tribe. Boyhood days were spent on the reservation, where he was educated both at Shiprock Elementary School and Rehoboth Mission School, later attending Calvin College and earning a B.A. in Art Education (’76). Yazzie is also a Calvin parent; two of his children, Andrew and Sierra, graduated from Calvin in 2006.

He began his career as a full time art educator for grades K-12, and has developed his own art while teaching full or part time since August of 1976. Yazzie’s art has captured the attention of art appreciators and students world-wide.

Yazzie’s unique use of the yucca plant for his watercolor brushes has brought many opportunities for presentations, lectures, exhibits and seminars. Invited to show and teach in China, Germany, Israel, Belize and throughout North America, he is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. His work as both artist and educator enables the learner to understand his Navajo culture and its artistic expression.  Cultural lectures on various art forms of the Navajo are well received at all age levels.

Acrylic and watercolor paintings are the focus of Yazzie’s works. He specializes in painting “sky-scapes” and symbolic life themes in a variety of sizes.

Spirituality permeates Yazzie’s life and his art. In his words, “Art must communicate uniqueness because it is inspired.”

Yazzie resides in Oro Valley, where he enjoys visiting and conversing about art over a cup of coffee. He teaches at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy.

Yazzie also serves on the Calvin College Alumni Association Board, and recently donated 20 pieces of art to Calvin College, which will be offered via silent auction on Friday, October 24, 2008.