Peterson Yazzie is a Contemporary Navajo artist from Greasewood Springs, Arizona; he was born in Ft. Defiance, Arizona in 1979. Peterson is of the Mexican Clan, One Who Walks Around Clan, Red House, and Coyote Pass Clan. After graduating from Holbrook High School in 1997, he went on to Northland Pioneer College in Holbrook, Arizona.
Taking a “Southwest Art” class from Don Whitesinger, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, and Institute of American Indian Arts, during his junior year in high school was a major turning point for Peterson. College cast money; therefore he had no plans to go to college to further his education. When high school graduation came, Peterson received an art scholarship to the University of Evansville in Indiana and a full tuition scholarship to Northland Pioneer College in Holbrook, Arizona. He also received a scholarship for art from the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and an art internship to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. These accomplishments made Peterson realize he had a talent for art, so he decided to give art a try. Peterson has participated in several shows in the southwest, and has won several awards as well: Most Outstanding Achievement Award, sculpture, Heard Museum Student Art Show; First Place, painting, 1999 Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial Poster Contest; Best of Division, painting, Best of Category, painting, “Navajo Market”, Museum of Northern Arizona, 2001. Peterson was also awarded the Eiteljorg Museum Student Fellowship in the Spring of 2001; Goodman Fellowship – Wheelwright Museum in 2003; Best of Division, painting, Eight Northern Pueblos Indians Arts and Craft Show in 2004.
The Navajo Culture and personal life experiences is the foundation of Peterson’s work. Peterson strives to maintain his culture through his paintings that go beyond just being a “pretty picture” to “positive and negative realities”. Peterson says, “My paintings are expressions of who I am, an individual co-existing between worlds. I use traditional aspects of my culture, to communicate in a contemporary society.”
Peterson received an Associates Degree of Fine arts (2002) and a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree (2004) from the Institute of American Indian Arts, In Santa Fe, New Mexico. He hopes to become an art instructor one day.