Artist Feature: Tyana Arviso

Photography by Heath Herring

My name is Tyana Arviso. I am a freelance, Navajo artist. I reside in the high desert of southwest Colorado. Things are a bit different on this corner of the earth, both desert and mountain landscapes sit in my backyard. My heart gravitates towards the desert, it is my sanctuary.

My interest in photography began when I was 16. I would tag along with my mother, who is also a photographer, on her evenings out. I remember her being the first person I knew who really enjoyed the outdoors. She has that rambling personality about her, always ready for an adventure. On one of these outings I randomly began taking photos, I shot on my iPhone. My interest became more serious, I started learning about film. Eventually, I began to shoot and develop on film. I did this for about two years. My parents have always been supportive of my creativity when I graduated high school they gifted me my first DSLR camera. That is when things started taking off creatively.

Throughout my creative journey, I’ve established a connection to the land. I hope to remain connected to the land. It’s hard to explain this connection, it is sacred. I’m thankful my eyes have opened and have seen the natural beauty of Mother Earth and Father Sky. I couldn’t imagine living a life with my eyes closed.

Photography has brought me out of the shadows and into the light. It has brought this wave of self-motivation, confidence, and healing to my mind, body & spirit.

Tom Mix 6X

I gather inspiration from the colors of the earth, from the light of the sun and the moon. Including the feeling, I get when my feet are on the ground & when my heart and soul are wandering aimlessly. The land is a kingdom for inspiration, you must be willing to see its beauty in its many forms.

With my work comes deep respect for the sacredness of certain situations. Especially when visiting certain places or connecting with others. For example, it is considered a taboo to visit ancient ancestral ruins within the Navajo tradition. I am a landscape photographer, I often encounter these sacred places. When I encounter these sacred places, I try my best to keep my distance. If I must get close I say, “I am just passing by, I do not mean any harm or negativity. Thank you for allowing me in your space.”. Often times these sacred spaces were once homes and places of sacred worship. If you think about it, you don’t just walk into somebody’s house unannounced. That’s disrespectful. When you enter a sacred place, it is important to be mindful of your actions and intentions. Respect the space as if you were in someone else’s home.

As I get older I realize how resilient my people are. We are more than this hardship, this hardship is not our story. Today we are here reclaiming our cultural identity with the help of resources that are much more obtainable than they were a couple years ago.

I always enjoy each opportunity I get to hear of creation stories and learning the meaning of things we use today. Turquoise is one example. Turquoise jewelry isn’t a fashion trend, it holds a much deeper and sacred meaning. To wear turquoise is a way to be identified by the creator, so you are given blessings and protection. It is a piece that is worn daily and during special ceremonies. Navajo Moccasins (Kélchí) are very sacred as well, “Ké” meaning shoes & “lichí” meaning red shoe. The Diné wear kélichí to honor and respect kinship, it connects one to p Mother Earth and Father Sky, it is a way to be identified by the holy ones so you are given protection and blessings.

There’s a deeper meaning to Navajo teachings and traditions. It is important to respect those beliefs and be willing to understand them.

My hopes for my people are to continue practicing traditional Navajo teachings. I hope that we continue to be resilient and help each other along the way.