Born 1983 in No Water Mesa, Arizona, Melissa S. Cody is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. In 2007, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts and Museum Studies from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
A fourth-generation Navajo weaver, Cody’s intricate tapestries are often associated with the Germantown Revival, a stylistic movement named after the government wool from Germantown, Pennsylvania, that was supplied to the Navajo during the time of the Long Walk. The weaving style was characterized by a complex interaction of traditional and historical contingencies: Vivid commercial dyes and new economic pressures prompted enterprising Navajo weavers to adapt, creating bold new textiles. The commercial viability of the craft became a means of continuance, even as it altered it.
Cody’s work carries that balance of tradition, history, and contemporaneity forward. Working on a traditional Navajo loom, Cody recombines traditional patterns into sophisticated geometric overlays and haptic color schemes. In Good Luck (2014), Cody employs a classic Navajo motif: the Whirling Log, a symbol of good fortune. Recognizable today as a swastika, Cody reclaims the traditional symbol in a definitely exuberant palette, encircling it in another Navajo motif: the Rainbow Person, a protective figure. As if to underscore the playful, good-natured quality of the work, Cody’s renders the Rainbow Person as an extension cord—her face taking the form of the socket and her two legs the plug. The tight weave of the textile creates sharply defined borders around the pixelated lettering, reading “Good Luck.” “I’m a child of ’80s video game culture: Pac-Man, Frogger, Nintendo,” Melissa points out, “I grew up with this world of pixilation.” Cody approaches weaving as ever-evolving craft tradition and art form.
Melissa Cody’s work has been featured in many museums and galleries, such as: the Stark Museum of Art (2014, Orange, Texas); Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Institute of American Indian Arts (2017–2018, Santa Fe); Ingham Chapman Gallery, University of New Mexico (2018, Albuquerque); Navajo Nation Museum (2018); SITE (2018–2019, Santa Fe); MASS Gallery (2019, Austin); Heard Museum (2019, Phoenix); Exploratorium (2019, San Francisco); Museum of Northern Arizona (2019, Flagstaff); Rebecca Camacho Presents (2019, San Francisco); and National Gallery of Canada (2019–2020, Ottawa). Her works are featured in a number of museum collections, including those of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas.