ALL FINALISTS / MELISSA CODY

Melissa Cody

media
location
is a fourth-generation Navajo textile artist whose work draws on her community’s rich weaving traditions as well as contemporary influences. In vibrant colors and through intricate geometric designs, she uses art to address her lived experience and major issues facing the Arizona reservation where she grew up, including water contamination caused by mining, and its impact on community health. Cody is based in Los Angeles.

What drew you to the medium you work in?

I grew up weaving, starting when I was 5 years old. I learned the basics of the history of weaving, but I also wanted to push myself and create work that made people think. I didn't want it to be designs that were always associated with traditional Navajo textiles.

My work explores not only aesthetic qualities or color theory or motifs, but also where I'm at as an individual, as a woman, as a mother, as a contemporary Indigenous person living in an urban setting.

I grew up on the Navajo reservation, without running water or electricity, and I went to boarding school. Now I live in Los Angeles, in the Long Beach area, and I'm fortunate to be able to run my own studio. There's a long timeline of different things that had to fall into place for me to be where I'm at right now. I definitely want the work to be reflective of all those experiences along the way.

Tell us about your working style, ideal studio environment, or any routines you have.

I usually have multiple pieces going at once. I often have music or movies playing in my studio, because I like to take a breather and look away from my loom sometimes. I sit on the floor to weave. If I’m working on a larger piece, I have platforms built to replicate sitting on the floor.

What does craft mean to you?

Craft is the continuation of tradition. It's the continuation of artistic knowledge in its rawest form.

Move Left
Move Right
Photo: Courtesy the artist
Photo: Courtesy the artist
Photo: Courtesy the artist
Photo by Sam Minkler, courtesy the artist
Photo: Courtesy the artist
Photo: Courtesy the artist
Photo: Courtesy the artist
Photo: Courtesy the artist
US
Material: Three-ply aniline dyed wool
Dimension: 34 1/2 × 15 in. (87.6 × 30 cm)

Cody’s weavings are full of vibrant contemporaneity. However, she works on a traditional Navajo loom and incorporates historical Navajo iconography. Weaving symbolizes empowerment and community for Navajo women. A fourth-generation weaver, Cody learned the skill at age five from other women in her family. Weaving serves as a form of storytelling for the artist, who weaves both personal stories and multigenerational ones. In US, the artist mourns the loss of her longtime partner who died by suicide.

Courtesy the artist
Weaving Process
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Navajo weaving is especially recognized for its sound. The warp (vertical thread) of the loom is held by a series of dowels to a simple wooden frame. The weft (horizontal thread) is manually threaded through the warp, strand by strand. The yarn is repeatedly pushed down and compacted with a wooden pick, known as a batten, which produces the unique rhythmic sound of Navajo weaving. Cody’s palette consists of at least sixty distinct colors of commercially-dyed wool.

Courtesy the artist
World Traveller
Material: Three-ply aniline dyed wool
Dimension: 92 × 45 in. (233.68 × 114.3 cm)

Cody’s work is associated with the Germantown Revival, a style based on Navajo textiles produced starting in 1864 during the Long Walk. The weaving style gets its name from Germantown, Pennsylvania, where commercial yarn was fabricated and shipped by the US government to Navajo weavers to make blankets to be sold at trading posts. Cody sees her work as a protest against the rules and labor imposed on Navajo weavers who were forced to adapt to the circumstances and thriving market by creating bold new textiles to ensure their survival and that of their traditions.

Courtesy the artist
Sweet Lovable
Material: Three-ply aniline dyed wool
Dimension: 27 x 43.5 in (68.58 x 110.45 cm)
Photo by Sam Minkler, courtesy the artist
4th Dimension
Material: Three-ply aniline dyed wool
Dimension: 24 x 19 in (60.9 x 48.3 cm)
Courtesy the artist
The Night I Sleep, I Dream.
Material: Three-ply aniline dyed wool
Dimension: 20 x 10 in (50.8 x 25.4 cm)
Courtesy the artist
Woven in the Stones
Material: Three-ply aniline dyed wool
Dimension: 38 x 28 in (96.5 x 71.1 cm)
Courtesy the artist
Water's Edge
Material: Three-ply aniline dyed wool
Dimension: 26.5 x 15 in (67.3 x 38.1 cm)
Courtesy the artist