Elmer Yazzie, Visual Artist, Art Educator and Karitos Speaker interviewed at Karitos 2019

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

Joel Kikke, Visual artist and Podcaster

Joel Kikke interviewed visual artist Elmer Yazzie during this past 2019 Karitos Conference in Streator, Illinois. Yazzie, a seasoned artist and arts educator, spoke on Genesis chapters 1 and 2 during the main session. Yazzie discovered 9 different characteristics of God in those passages.

"The first characteristic that I saw in Genesis 1 and 2 is the word ‘creative’. God is creative," Yazzie said. Yazzie explained creativity as "contributing uniqueness" and that God has done something that was never done before.

He then expressed, secondly, that he saw that God gave ‘purpose’ to all 7 days of creation and that as artists we should create a routine to follow.

Visual Artist Elmer Yazzie in his Yucca brush class at Karitos 2019

"The third characteristic that I found in that story of Genesis 1 is that God saw all He had done and ‘it was good’." Yazzie explained that God loved what He had created. He said that his students can look at their art and think that it isn't good. He stated that the reason is because they have certain standards that they are trying to obtain and fail, so they criticize themselves. As an educator, Yazzie encourages his students to obtain their skill at their own grade level.

‘Intricacy’ of God's creation is Yazzie's fourth characteristic from his talk on Genesis 1. Yazzie explained that he often creates his art in 4 by 4 inch mat boards and studies his subject. He explained that he sees patterns and objects that he can create from.

"I have students that have trouble finishing projects and there's a level of commitment or a lack of commitment. God laid that example for us beautifully in completing the work," Yazzie asserted. He stressed that "finishing your work" is the fifth characteristic from Genesis. He said it’s important to go back to unfinished projects and completing them. He mentioned that sometimes that means starting over on a canvas, but to remember that the first story of the canvas feeds into the next story. "I've covered over a canvas 3 times and you build on the concept, it’s still the same theme, but it becomes what you were really looking for," Yazzie explained.

"There's something in God's creation for every human being in the world when they look and humble themselves and seek out what it is." Yazzie stated when talking about the variety of creation.

Yazzie's sixth characteristic was that of the variety of creation.

Yazzie stressed the importance of having "masterpiece work" and that it may change multiple times throughout your life. He explained that as you become better at your craft your masterpieces will evolve. Yazzie stated that in Genesis 1 and 2 God’s creation of man is God's masterpiece work and cites that as his seventh characteristic from those chapters.

Yazzie's painting from Karitos 2019 during the Master Class

Yazzie put great emphasis on the fact that God gave His artwork for us to care for. Yazzie emphasized the importance of taking care of the earth and the gifts God gives you as his eighth characteristic.

Yazzie tells the story of giving one of his paintings to a little girl at an art show. The girl wanted to purchase his painting, but only had 25 cents. After hearing the girl had earned the 25 cents he felt moved to sell the painting to her for that amount. Yazzie says it is important to use your gifts to give to other people. Giving is his ninth characteristic of God that he sees revealed in Genesis.

Yazzie stated that ‘rest’ as a bonus characteristic of God which he found in Genesis 1. He observed that creativity is a draining process and that artists need to rest. Kikke elaborated that she had listened to Kris Vallotton who declared that it was important to take care of his soul, that in our culture so many people don't take care of their souls. Kikke went on to discuss Elijah in the Bible and how God allowed him to rest for three days. Yazzie mentioned that he appreciated that, at the Karitos conference, there were places he could go and rest.

Yazzie's display at the Gallery at Karitos 2019

Currently, Yazzie is a school teacher for grades 8-12 and coaches cross country. Yazzie is blessed to share his classroom with his daughter who teaches grades K-6. The next showing of his art pieces will be in Williamsburg, Virginia, at The College of William and Mary. The theme is Slavery and runs from November 7 through December.


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