A statue of a noble Navajo Chief stands on a hill. Made of soil and straw dried in the sun, this inspired and inspiring statue inevitably will be claimed by the elements and returned to its native soil. Still remaining, however, will be our memories of an artistic performance that speaks powerfully to us even in its absence.
As with all art, these statues will resonate differently for individuals, which is part of the conversation the artists hope to inspire with their work.
Sponsored by Friends of the Southwest Museum, Navajo artist Erma Yazzie designed and sculpted the initial Native American chieftain to disappear before our eyes, just like the Southwest and Casa de Adobe museums.
Erma sees in the statues a fond symbol of the Southwest Museum she once knew.
“When I was asked to design a figure to represent my tribal connections to the Southwest Museum, I remembered this beautiful picture in a Southwest Museum brochure of a Navajo chief’s blanket displayed on a mannequin,” she says.
“The Navajos began making chief’s blankets in about the 1860s. Those textiles, as displayed at the Southwest, were breathtaking. So I conceived a Navajo chief, his head lifted to the sky, wrapped in one of those chief’s blankets as my symbol of the Southwest Museum as I came to know it and love it.”
Look out as these statues unexpectedly appear throughout the Los Angeles landscape.
Be Part of the Native Soil Project
- When you find a sculpture, take a picture and share it with friends: tell them what it is
- Help document the eventual demise and post new images as the statues change or disappear
- Share your images on Facebook or Twitter. Tag us or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hashtag #nativesoil
- Sign up for email alerts
- Be ready to lift your voice to elected officials who need to intervene
- Do you know someone who owns a private piece of property with high visibility that might be willing to host an actual life-sized Native Soil statue? Tell us at email@example.com
- Help underwrite the cost of placing a Native Soil statue. Make a tax-deductible donation in any amount
- If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation of $800 as a named sponsor of an entire statue, please contact us: (323) 999-1430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Native Soils Project is conceived, created, and implemented by the contributions of Los Angeles artists from all over the City.
Juan Carlos Elizondo
As a colleague of the Project’s Creator, Juan Carlos’ project concept served as a ray of light that inspired this collaborative effort. Juan Carlos conducted early materials testing for the statues to make sure they would work and will assist in installation. Juan Carlos, a Culver City artist, specializes in installation and conceptual art. His training is a BA in Public Art from Cal State Monterey Bay.
Erma Yazzie is a sculptor. She obtained her training in 3D art and museum studies at Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There she interned at the Wheelright Museum of the American Indian. Drawing upon her Navajo roots, she conceived of two possible statues: one of a Navajo Chief with eyes lifted to the sky, and another Sun God figure. “When I was asked to participate in this Project I recalled the times when I watched my grandmother and aunts weave textiles and blankets that they sold near our tribal home in northwestern New Mexico.” When homesick in Los Angeles, she often visited the Southwest Museum.
Erma remembers going to the site on Mount Washington to sit and look at the city and the mountains.
“It was a special place and I was sad to watch exhibits close. It really broke my heart when I learned that the beautiful Southwest Museum store had been moved over to the Autry Museum in Griffith Park.” She had wondered why the Southwest Museum was being taken away from its original home.
Erma hopes that sponsors will come forward to also fund her Sun God statue .
Cindy Jackson is a well-known artist whose work focuses on the human form. Erma and Cindy did the detailed sculpting work for the life-size form of the Navajo leader based on the conceptual design and maquete sculpted by Erma.
Cindy loved the beauty of creating the Navajo leader out of soil knowing that these native soils would eventually be returned to the lands of Southern California where First Nation people lived.
Cindy occasionally teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where she also received her BFA. Cindy has produced sculpture works for Pasadena Civic Auditorium, City of Signal Hill, various hotels and casinos. Her work has recently been seen at the Fisher Gallery at the University of Southern California, Gallery 825 in Los Angeles, Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, and the Pasadena Museum of California Art.
– As Project Creator he planned, coordinated, implemented and did everything else to make the Native Soils Project happen and bring attention to Northeast Los Angeles culture and diversify the public art landscape.
Native Soil Project sponsored in part by Daniels Engraving