Steven Yazzie’s Upside Down World

Navajo artist Steve Yazzie is circling back to painting after year of exploring video and film and installation art. I first saw Steven’s work at the museum at the Institute of American Indian Art. He was part of the show curated for Crystal Bridges by Mindy Besaw, Candice Hopkins and Manuela Well-Off-Man, called Art for a New Understanding, Native Voices, 1950 to Now.

The work they had was an installation of his Drawing and Driving project. He had built a cart and attached a small easel to the steering wheel and frame. The idea was to hop on and set off down a hill and at the same time, start sketching what you saw flying by at ever increasing speeds. Fun. Harrowing. But, yeah, fun!

As part of the project, which began at a residency at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. It grew into a larger venture when he took his vehicle to other sites in the West and invited fellow artists and friends to hop on board and give it a go. And though the idea may seem absurd–attempting to draw while steering a cart down a hill–it’s kind of how we’re seeing the land, whistling down the highway and top speed, glimpsing bits and pieces out of the corner of an eye. We take it all for granted, so why not draw and drive, if only to scare the bejesus out of yourself and, maybe, snap yourself out of the trance of modern life if only for a short, rough ride?

The painting in Allegories of Transformation is part of Steven’s return to the studio to paint. Check out his website for his many videos and other paintings. And, of course, to read more about Steven, go to his site and ours at the PACE Center.

Diego Romero, Pop-Native-Fiction

Diego Romero’s work does this crazy thing: it draws you in because it looks like very old, traditional pottery but then, when you get up close, it’s like a little kid jumped out from a closet and shouted BOO!

Lest Tyranny Reign, 7.5×17 inches, ceramic

He’s clearly having way too much fun.

Diego’s pottery is based on techniques that are thousands of years old. Holding his work in your hands is surprising. It feels like touching an egg. It’s lighter than it looks and, as he points out, incredibly durable. And yet, if you drop it, it will shatter.

American Diastrophism, 30 x 27.7 inches, lithograph

One of his newest pieces, Lest Tyranny Reigns, is based on the story of the great Pueblo leader Pope who held off the Spanish invasion for a hot second. And because of his bravery and cunning, he has become a folk hero, the story of which lends itself beautifully to Diego’s work which gives a nod to the comic book illustrators he loved to read since childhood and still collects to this day.

Comic books, American films and pop art also influence his print work, which he creates with Black Rock Press in New Mexico. He loves appropriating cultures–after all, he’s seen plenty of people appropriate his culture. But it’s such a wonderful way to start a conversation: draw people in with something that is known and comfortable, then add the twist, the thing that makes you stop and think and ask questions.

To learn more about Diego, visit his gallery, Shiprock and check out our site, PACE Arts.

Cara Romero, Realizing Her Vision

This was a refreshing interview on so many levels. First, Cara is such an open person, so willing to talk about herself as she relates to the work in a very personal way.

Water Memories, photograph, 40×40 inches

I left this interview feeling incredibly inspired.

One of the things that stays with me–that I think of almost every day–is how she decided to invest in herself and her career. She’d been making photographs and exploring themes of her culture and, at the same time, being a mom and wife and all the other myriad roles women artists take on. Then is occurred to her: she needed to take some of her savings and invest in her career. The result are the three photos we have in the Allegories of Transformation exhibition–and that are featured in the video interview I did with Cara.

Ufala Girls, photography, 40×40 inches

These photos exploded on the scene and made Cara a known entity. They have since been collected by major museums including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and the American Museum of Britain.

For more information about Cara, visit her website: And, check out her work for the PACE Center.

Neal Ambrose-Smith, Seeing Through the Noise

The Weight of Thought, 30×22 inches, Xerox tone ink on paper

I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with Neal Ambrose-Smith, in advance of the Allegories of Transformation exhibit at the PACE Center. We had never met–never even talked to each other, but in this time of COVID, we just jumped in. We had set a time to talk for an hour, if need be. Two hours later, we were still talking and laughing and having a great time.

Do Fish Dream? 30×22 inches. graphite, India ink, house paint

The amazing things I learned about Neal that didn’t make it on the video are that he is keeping the archive of all his mother, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s work. The two of them often critic each other’s work and freely admit that they borrow ideas, an exchange that has made for a dynamic explosion of work, thoughts and ideas.

The other incredible aspect to Neal’s life and work is his commit to youth and teaching at the Institute of American Indian Art. I was able to leave in part of that conversation–incredible, truly, the issues he and his team deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Visit the Allegories of Transformation exhibit online at The PACE Center.

Linley Logan: The Art of Transformation

When curating Allegories of Transformation for the PACE Center, I was amazed and delighted by Linley Logan’s work for the show. His ingenious way of seeing the world around us and presenting alternative ways of thinking about life and…the detritus surrounding us.

Linley’s life and art revolve around family, culture and heritage. In his art, he freely uses everything and anything he can get his hands on–a skill he learned out of the necessity to complete projects in college on a meager budget. The beauty in his work lies in the humous way he uses new and discarded materials to form a bridge between his culture and heritage to the modern world.

About Linley Logan

Multidisciplinary artist, curator and author, Linley Logan grew up in the Tonawanda Seneca Nation. He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico where he earned an AFA in Two Dimensional Arts and another AFA in Three Dimensional Arts and engaged museum studies. He went on to study ceramics at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle Main, then earned a degree in Industrial Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology for a BFA.

He has curated and co-curated contemporary Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy) art exhibits, including “Iroquois Art in the Age of Casino’s,” Iroquois Indian Museum. He authored articles and presented cultural programing for the Smithsonian Institution. He has been a participating artist in International Indigenous Visual Artists’ Gatherings in Hawaii and New Zealand. He believes strongly in serving on local and regional arts boards and working with youth to maintain traditional language studies. His own work is rooted in the traditional art forms—printmaking, painting, carving, silver jewelry, pottery and found art creations—but is conveyed through contemporary artistic expression.

His writing extends to traditional dance and indigenous internet implications. “Native American Dance, Ceremonies and Social Dance Traditions,” was published by the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, and “Dancing the Cycles of Life” published by the Festival of American Folklife was part of the social dance in the America’s program for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Studies, Smithsonian Institution.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Untitled, 24 x 15.5 inches, monotype
Untitled, 24 x 15.5 inches, monotype
Untitled, 24 x 15.5 inches, monotype
Untitled, 24 x 15.5 inches, monotype

Pinning down Jaune Quick-to-See Smith for an hour is no easy feat. At 80, Smith is actively making art that responds to social, environmental, and political issues–subject matter that is not short on these days–she is lecturing, teaching and curating, connecting her fellow Indigenous artist with each other to find opportunities. And, if all that wasn’t enough, she’s raising her young granddaughters.

For this interview, her son, a well-respected artist in his own right, as well as a professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Neal Ambrose Smith, orchestrated our call on Zoom. While most interviews have been edited down to seven to eight minutes, I decided to let this one ride. Partly because talking to Smith is a bit like getting an audience with the Oracle, but also because one hour turned into nearly three; every bit of which was full of her forthright and learned insights into her work and the Native American way of life.

And, I loved the crazy thing that happened as we were starting the conversation–talk about an icebreaker. Something popped in front of her camera and blurred her image then, just as quickly, darted away. Her reaction to that was priceless and a great way to kick things off.

To download a copy of the article I wrote on Smith for Western Art & Architecture, CLICK here. Also, to read my full interview with Jaune, CLICK here.

And so, without further ado, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.