The Textile Society of America’s Brandford/Elliott Award for Excellence in Fiber Art (BEA) honors the lives and work of the late and beloved fiber artists Joanne Segal Brandford and Lillian Elliott. The Award, formerly known as the Lillian Elliott Award, was established in 1995. A committee comprised of professionals from both TSA and past BEA boards preside over the award selection process. On the new award website, there is a link to all past awardees and a list of invited notable nominators, three each award year, who have since 1995 nominated artists for consideration for this prestigious award.
The Award is given to an outstanding emerging fiber artist whose work reflects a willingness to take creative risks. Before introducing the 2020 awardee at the upcoming online symposium in October, I would like to give a preview of her work in this article, with the intention that we meet in person in Boston at the Awards Banquet in September 2021.
Melissa Cody, born in 1983 in the Navajo Nation of northern Arizona, began weaving at the age of five. Her upright vertical loom was built by her carpenter father, and her mother was her primary teacher and mentor. Cody is a fourth-generation weaver, trained in the rich tradition of Navajo weaving. Having mastered multiple traditional patterns, and with skilled technical knowledge, she incorporates images and text into her work that express her life and reality today. Cody’s “sampler” textiles are made up of multiple design and color elements in one composition. With the vibrant palette of the Germantown Revival Style, based on the “Long Walk,” her signature style has emerged.
The Navajo/Diné people experienced the Long Walk in the 1860s. This forced migration and internment are central to the nation’s sense of identity as a people, and the long experience of adapting to circumstances is expressed in the changing imagery found in weavers’ work. Outside influences appear in their weaving, with woven images such as railroad cars that encroached on and crossed their land. Melissa Cody carries on this practice, using traditional imagery and symbols and responding to the time she’s living in to tell personal stories of her generation and to speak to “now.” One example of how she as an artist and weaver embraces her own time can be found in a bus stop installation that she recently designed outside the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff—translating her knowledge of textiles into cut work in metal. Honoring Melissa Cody with the Brandford/Elliott Award recognizes her work in the context of both contemporary art as well as Native American art. Solidly grounded in her indigenous culture, Cody courageously speaks to the future.
In 2007, Cody received a Fine Arts degree and BA degree in Museum Studies from the College of Contemporary Native Arts (CCNA), Santa Fe, NM. While completing her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to intern with the International Folk Art Museum, Museums of New Mexico, Santa Fe and with the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, with an emphasis on textile conservation. Since graduating from CCNA, her recent work has focused on water and uranium mining issues impacting her Navajo reservation community of No Water Mesa and the negative health effects suffered by her family members. She has been an artist in residence at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ, at the M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco, and she has been part of “Emerging Indigenous Voices: New Generation of Artists,” Kua’aina Associates, San Francisco State University, CA. In 2018, she received the National Artist Fellowship in Navajo Traditional Arts. Her work can be found in collections like the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN; the Stark Museum, Orange, TX; and the Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA.
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|Pat Hickman, Professor Emerita of the Art Department, University of Hawaii, has a studio at the Garnerville Arts and Industrial Center, NY and lives in the Lower Hudson Valley. Hickman twice received NEA Individual Artist’s Grants and was elected a Fellow of the American Craft Council in 2005. She is a longtime member of the Textile Society of America, serving as President from 2008 to 2010.|