Demian DinéYazhi’ ‘13 Receives 2017 Brink Award

June 15, 2017

Demian DinéYazhi´. image via

Big congratulations to almnus Demian DinéYazhi´ who was selected to receive the 2017 Brink Award, the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle announced today.

Demian DinéYazhi´ (b. 1983) is an Indigenous Diné transdisciplinary artist born to the clans Naasht'ézhí Tábąąhá (Zuni Clan Water's Edge) and Tódích'íí'nii (Bitter Water). A writer, poet, artist, and activist, DinéYazhi´ has exhibited work nationally and internationally at art institutions and essential DIY alternative run spaces. He lives in Portland.

The Brink Award is an annual award supporting emerging artists in the region. DinéYazhi´ will receive a prize of $12,500 and be given a solo exhibition at the Henry next spring. In addition, a publication will be produced, and a work of art will be acquired for the museum’s permanent collection.

DinéYazhi´ has recently been included in exhibitions at the Portland Art Museum (Dene bāhī Naabaahii) and the Cooley Gallery at Reed College (Iconoclastic). His work is currently on view in Tomorrow Tomorrow, an exhibition of Portland area artists at CANADA curated by Stephanie Snyder, John and Anne Hauberg Curator and Director, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, and New York artist Wallace Whitney. DinéYazhi´organizes 
R.I.S.E.: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment, an Indigenous founded artist/activist/warrior initiative. RISE is dedicated to the education, dissemination, & evolution of Indigenous art & culture.

This year, 81 qualified submissions were received for the Brink from artists nominated by a group of arts professionals from across the Pacific Northwest. This group was chosen for their strong commitment to recognizing, promoting, and supporting emerging artists in the Cascadia region.

The 2017 jury was comprised of Roya Amirsoleymani, Director of Community Engagement for the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art; Amanda Donnan, curator of the University Art Galleries at Seattle University; Charlene Vickers, an Anishnabe artist living and working in Vancouver, B.C.; and Nina Bozicnik, Associate Curator at the Henry. The jurors conducted studio visits with the seven finalists in early June. 

Of their decision to award the Brink to DinéYazhi´, the jury says, "We are compelled by the way Demian complicates dominant queer narratives and understandings of indigeneity. Through a multi-modal practice, he enacts an ethics of mutuality and reciprocity, and pursues the decolonization of body and land. In the studio and in conversation with Demian, we observed that these ideas are moving in promising new directions."

DinéYazhi´’s work is rooted in a reverence for traditional Diné cultural practices and social formations, and also a desire to give voice to a contemporary Indigeneity that challenges Western archetypes and notions of authenticity. He uses conceptual strategies inclusive of image and text to talk truth to power, and to reclaim sovereignty from the white heteronormative patriarchy. Working across formats, from zines to exhibitions, and often in collaboration with others, DinéYazhi´ is also founder of R.I.S.E.: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment, an Indigenous operated artist/activist/warrior initiative dedicated to the education, dissemination, and evolution of Indigenous art and culture. DinéYazhi´ received a BFA from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2014.

The Brink is in its fifth biennial cycle. In 2009, The Brink was awarded to Isabelle Pauwels, Vancouver, B.C.; in 2011, to Andrew Dadson, Vancouver, B.C.; in 2013, to Anne Fenton, Seattle, WA; and in 2015 to Jason Hirata, Seattle, WA and New York, NY.