Melissa Cody

Webbed Skies

Ends Sep 9

  • On View
  • Exhibition

Image: Melissa Cody. Untitled. 2022. Wool warp, weft, selvedge cords, and aniline dyes. 106 x 56 in. (269.2 x 142.2 cm). Courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York. Video: Filmed by Elle Rinaldi; Additional footage courtesy of the Hammer Museum; Video Editing by Elle Rinaldi; Audio Recording by Nora Rodriguez; Graphic Design by Julia Schäfer

[Español abajo]

The first major solo museum presentation of fourth-generation Navajo weaver Melissa Cody (b. 1983, No Water Mesa, Arizona) spans the last decade of her practice, showcasing over 30 weavings and a major new work produced for the exhibition. Using long-established weaving techniques and incorporating new digital technologies, Cody assembles and reimagines popular patterns into sophisticated geometric overlays, incorporating atypical dyes and fibers. Her tapestries carry forward the methods of Navajo Germantown weaving, which developed out of the wool and blankets that were made in Germantown, Pennsylvania and supplied by the US government to the Navajo people during the forced expulsion from their territories in the mid-1800s. During this period, the rationed blankets were taken apart and the yarn was used to make new textiles, a practice of reclamation which became the source of the movement. While acknowledging this history and working on a traditional Navajo loom, Cody’s masterful works exercise experimental palettes and patterns that animate through reinvention, reframing traditions as cycles of evolution.

Melissa Cody is a Navajo/Diné textile artist and enrolled member of the Navajo/Diné nation. Cody grew up on a Navajo Reservation in Leupp, Arizona and received a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts and Museum Studies from Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe. Her work has been featured in The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia (2022); Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR (2021); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2019–2020); Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff (2019); SITE Santa Fe (2018–19); Ingham Chapman Gallery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (2018); Navajo Nation Museum, Window Rock (2018); and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe (2017–18). Cody’s works are in the collections of the Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; and The Autry National Center, Los Angeles. In 2020, she earned the Brandford/Elliott Award for Excellence in Fiber Art.

MoMA PS1 presentará la primera exposición individual de Melissa Cody (n. 1983, No Water Mesa, Arizona), tejedora navajo de cuarta generación. Melissa Cody: Webbed Skies [Cielos palmeados] abarca la última década de su práctica artística, presentando más de 30 tejidos y una nueva comisión importante. Cody utiliza métodos tradicionales, patrones complejos y tintes hechos a mano para resaltar los tapices como tecnologías potentes para la narración visual, sugiriendo su influencia en la automatización digital actual. Los tapices de Cody siguen los métodos del tejido tradicional navajo que se desarrolló a partir de la lana y las mantas que se fabricaban en Germantown, Pensilvania, y que el gobierno de Estados Unidos suministró al pueblo navajo durante la expulsión forzada de sus territorios a mediados del siglo XIX. Si bien Cody reconoce esta historia y trabaja en un telar tradicional navajo, sus obras magistrales ejercitan paletas y patrones experimentales que anima a través de la reinvención, reformulando las tradiciones como ciclos evolutivos.

Melissa Cody es una artista textil navajo/diné y miembro inscrita de la nación navajo. Cody creció en una reserva en Leupp, Arizona, y recibió una licenciatura en arte y estudios de museos por el Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe. Su obra se ha exhibido en The Barnes Foundation, Filadelfia (2022); Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR (2021); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2019-2020); Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff (2019); SITE Santa Fe (2018-19); Ingham Chapman Gallery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (2018); Navajo Nation Museum, Window Rock (2018); y Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe (2017–18). Las obras de Cody se encuentran en las colecciones del Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; and The Autry National Center, Los Ángeles. En 2020, obtuvo el Premio Brandford/Elliott a la Excelencia en Arte con Fibras.


April 4–September 9, 2024



Melissa Cody: Webbed Skies is organized by Museu de arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) and MoMA PS1. The exhibition is curated by Isabella Rjeille, Curator, MASP, and Ruba Katrib, Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, MoMA PS1. Exhibition research and support is provided by Andrea Sánchez, Coordinator of Curatorial Affairs, MoMA PS1.

Melissa Cody: Webbed Skies es organizada por Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) y MoMA PS1. La exposición es curada por Isabella Rjeille, Curadora, MASP, y Ruba Katrib, Curadora y Directora de Asuntos Curatoriales, MoMA PS1. La investigación y el apoyo de la exposición corren a cargo de Andrea Sánchez, Coordinadora de Asuntos Curatoriales, MoMA PS1.


Major support for Melissa Cody: Webbed Skies is provided by The Coby Foundation and The Deborah Buck Foundation.

Additional support is provided by Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg.

Special thanks to Becky Gochman.

Apoyo importante para Melissa Cody: Webbed Skies es provisto por The Coby Foundation y The Deborah Buck Foundation.

Apoyo adicional es proporcionado por Komal Shah y Gaurav Garg.

Un agradecimiento especial a Becky Gochman.

Selected Artworks

Installation Views

Audio Guide

Hear Melissa Cody discuss the evolution of tradition in Navajo textiles

Time remaining:

Melissa Cody: Navajo weaving, I think, has always been a really good example of embracing technology or embracing new ideas and incorporating them into a traditional context. The things that we consider tradition now weren’t considered tradition when they first came about. And that’s exactly the way I look at the work I’m creating now. In 50, 100 years, people are going to look back at my work that is influencing the generation of weavers now and it’s going to be considered the tradition of that time.

It’s exciting because I look at the work that I’m creating now, and it’s already being influenced by my daughter and my son. It’s just bringing a lot of awareness to the idea that we are fluid and ever evolving people. The idea of tradition isn’t stagnant. Being a traditional artist is going to be an ever evolving definition.

As indigenous people, we have the ability to provide these self definitions. A lot of indigenous weavers are being able to take that foundational knowledge of the process and apply it to work that’s more reflective of their personal story. That’s a huge conversation that I think a lot of indigenous people were really suppressed in. We are human. We can display emotion and be validated in having those human emotions. As indigenous people, we have the ability to provide these self-definitions, and we have the ability to speak our histories and to be documented in our own voices.

I’m very lucky to be able to have this wealth of knowledge. It’s not something that I take for granted. You know, I’m a steward of this information, and I want the respect of the process to be disseminated to the best of my ability and to make sure that the respect that I give it is carried on.

Melissa Cody: Playing video games and being at the loom can be seen as solitary. When I weave, I’m by myself. A lot of times you’re at your loom for extended periods of time: hours, days, months. Within your own thoughts and being very hyper focused. That’s the same way as playing a video game where you’re hyper focused on the screen, you can’t mess up. You can’t die.

And that same attention to detail and learning the ins and outs of the controller are very similar to, you know, learning the tools of weaving. You’re learning the intricacies of your tension and the pressure you’re applying with your comb and compacting your strings. You know, when I’m looking at a video game, I’m automatically breaking down the grid system, especially with the older gaming systems that were based heavily on these pixelated imagery and pixelated characters moving from left to right or, you know, up and down on the screen.

That’s the same way that I dissect the grid system for my weavings. I grid everything out and map out X and Y axis for vertical and horizontal lines of symmetry. I like highlighting those types of human emotion where glitches and the separation of time and space happens and intrusion happens.

When you’re playing a video game and it freezes or you’re watching it and the channel gets changed or you lose the electricity and it goes out and the screen flashes. Those are very real crises when you’re a kid. And I like being able to kind of make them intentional, but also make it work where it’s still having a conversation and each glitch and each intrusion is aware of the space that’s around them.

Melissa Cody: When I look at especially World Traveler it’s that entrance into this other world.

It’s very encapsulating because you’re taking yourself out of whatever reality you’re physically in and transporting yourself visually and through your other senses into this other worldliness.

I kind of get transported back to when we had gotten the Super Nintendo. And we got it for Christmas. And one of the games was Super Mario Kart. Being able to kind of like ride that rainbow road and to be able to have control over your destiny within that game, it’s very interesting to relay that into the weaving format where I can control the viewers destiny of how they enter the textile and using the textile as this multi dimensional plane for the viewer to experience these different worlds and different layers and different textures.

I would hope that each viewer can find a textile that speaks to their own senses because Super Mario Kart spoke to my senses.

Melissa Cody: Weaving was considered a woman’s job within our tribe, our tribe being a matriarchal society. And, being a fourth, fifth generation weaver within my family, I grew up pretty much being fostered by this guild of weavers who I saw throughout the year and reconnected with and developed community in, almost familial relations as well.

When I was growing up my older sister, she was already doing student art shows. Outside of my mother, she was kind of like that first inspiration for like, “Wow, I want to get to that level.” As I started to enter the student art shows and competitions, so did my brother. And then my cousin, he started competing too. And then a few other of my other relatives, you know, we were all competing against each other in the textiles category.

Throughout the year, we were like, “How many rugs did you finish?” Like, “I did two.” That was the excitement I think that really grabbed me when I was younger. There was always something to look forward to. Coming home after school, going to my loom and working on this piece because I want to succeed and excel and try to get to that next accomplishment in these student art shows.

So when I look at my work, it’s a culmination of all those people. Even though I’m one person creating in solitude by myself in my studio, I’m still hearing the voices of all the people who have come before me and who have contributed to developing the style that I’m working in now. But also it’s a nod to the respect of the information of the process. And I think a lot of that is lost sometimes. I’m trying to find balance in all of it.

Melissa Cody: I learned predominantly by actual verbal instruction from my mother, setting up a loom for me, sitting next to me and giving me actual instruction. Like, this is step A, this is step B. If this happens, these are the ways to troubleshoot it and then work through it. I would say I wasn’t a natural at it in the beginning because I remember being really frustrated at times. And I remember crying at my loom because things just weren’t making sense to me in a way where, when you see your family so easily make these incredibly detailed pieces of work that are very fine and just expertly made, and I’m here just struggling with the basics. There was a sense of immediacy that I wanted in that moment. But they had decades under their belt and I just wasn’t there yet.

It was definitely a long process in terms of really developing technique and then developing a signature style was just a whole other beast that I really had to navigate through.

Where I’m at now with the exhibition here, it’s really a reflecting moment because I can look at each individual piece here and have a flashback to the time and place that these were created. And it does, you know, bring back the imagery and the feelings and thoughts that I was having at that moment in my life.