Eleven-Figure Carved Wood Diné Nacimiento by Tom Yazzie [SOLD]


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Tom Yazzie, Navajo Nation Carver

This carved cottonwood and acrylic painted nacimiento by Diné artist Tom Yazzie has Mary holding the Baby Jesus securely wrapped and in her hands as she peers down at him.  Joseph is standing, wrapped in a baby blue blanket. The three kings, or wise men, carry gifts of a basket filled with corn meal, a tray with three ears of corn, and a black bowl with corn meal.  Two of the shepherds carry staffs and each has a sheep to look after. A third male is in charge of a donkey.

Many people became aware of Navajo folk art through the book released in August 1994 titled The People Speak - Navajo Folk Art by Chuck and Jan Rosenak. Historical recordings of Navajo folk art date to the 1870s when it was noted that simple mud toy figures were being made. Recognition of the contemporary movement began in the 1960s with artists Charlie Willeto and Tom Yazzie.

Tom Yazzie is noted for his fine wood carvings depicting Navajo scenes such as a silversmith working or a Navajo woman weaving.  He was most famous for his carvings of Navajo ceremonial life.  The birth of Jesus is not generally celebrated as part of the Navajo religion, but Yazzie has made several Nativity scenes. “A little Christianity can’t hurt,” he explained.

Artist Signature - Tom Yazzie (1930-2019 ) Diné – Navajo NationHis carvings are from cottonwood root and painted with acrylic paints. All his figures are dressed in traditional Navajo clothing.

I first heard of Tom Yazzie when I was working with Guy and Doris Monthan on their upcoming book Nacimientos—Nativity Scenes by Southwest Indian Artisans in 1978.  I contacted him to see if he would make a nacimiento for our annual Christmas exhibit at the Albuquerque gallery.  Over the years, Tom made probably 6 or 7 sets for us and always delivered them in January after our exhibit for the season closed.  We still had no trouble selling his nacimientos even after the holiday season. The Monthans stated in their book that he had only made four nacimiento sets at that time.

: this Eleven-Figure Carved Wood Diné Nacimiento by Tom Yazzie is in original condition

Provenance: from a resident of Albuquerque, NM

Recommended Reading: 

- The People Speak - Navajo Folk Art by Chuck and Jan Rosenak

Nacimientos: Nativity Scenes by Southwest Indian Artisans by Guy and Doris Monthan

Relative Links: Navajo Nation, Nativity, Tom Yazzie, Charlie Willeto, Clothing

Tom Yazzie, Navajo Nation Carver
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