by Patheresa Wells
YOLTEOTL Press, a traditional native arts and printmaking studio, will open in Ballard in early September. The press is the brainchild of Ixtlixochitl Salinas-White Hawk, an Indigenous artist, community advocate and matriarch. Located at BallardWorks at 2856 NW Market Street, the Press will not only be a space to showcase and create Indigenous art, but also a place to share culture across generations.
Salinas-White Hawk comes from a line of Aboriginal artists. His father is a muralist trained in Mexico City during the era of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Still, although she has art in her home, she said growing up here in Seattle, she couldn’t find people like her. She couldn’t find a place to cultivate or connect to art outside of her home. Salinas-White Hawk said this lack of representation caused him to lose himself, causing him to drop out of high school. So when she had her own children, she told them she would open an art studio.
“I always look at my children and I look at other people’s children. I look at people who need a place to create, that healing, who need that family. Especially as Indigenous artists, everything we create is really art,” she said.
The press will be a place of traditional art and printmaking but also a place where ancestral knowledge rubs shoulders with contemporary styles. The name of the press was very intentional. For his people, the Mexika Tenochca, different types of artists have different spiritual responsibilities and the word YOLTEOTL for visual artists. She said, “YOLTEOTL is the expression of [the] Creator [that] lives in my heart.
And Salinas-White Hawk believes that this expression of a creator who lives in the heart is something that belongs to everyone. Her dream of opening a space where an artist’s creative spirit can be nurtured stems from her belief that “art itself is part of everyday life.”
As an Indigenous woman, she considers herself a matriarch, which she says comes with responsibilities that some might consider activism. But for her, the word matriarch is more appropriate than militant because its “roots are much older than the word itself”. Her responsibilities to the community are present in her art, her traditional medicine work and her desire to have a place where people can gather.
“I want to be able to run workshops, I want to be able to make all of these things available to the community, especially for indigenous, black and POC youth,” she said. Even the location of the studio in Ballard is crucial to her as she said that while indigenous people are everywhere, they are often invisible. She said they are erased from the history books, mainstream media and data, despite being the inhabitants of the earth. “And so one of the endeavors that I’ve been working on with so many other native people in the city is being able to be present in many spaces.”
The vision of YOLTEOTL Press, according to Salinas-White Hawk, is a place where Indigenous people can make their voices heard. Where her native parents can know there is a home for them, a community space where they can care for each other. She wants to extend an invitation to participate in the vision.
The matriarch planted seeds so she could nurture others the way she needed as a young artist. She hopes others will join her in providing resources, connecting, and helping build the space. When Salinas-White Hawk passes on the knowledge of her art to her children, she says it’s about nurturing a generational, inherited and cultural seed. A seed present in each of us. This creativity where life becomes art.
YOLTEOTL Press aims to capture this transition from life to art. For Salinas-White Hawk, “It captures the emotion, and it captures the perception and life of an Indigenous woman in Seattle, in an urban city, in Ballard of all places.”
YOLTEOTL Press will open in early September. Follow their Instagram for more details on the grand opening.
Well Patheresa is a queer poet, writer, and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a black mother and a Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural child shaped her desire to defend and amplify her community. She is currently attending Highline College in Des Moines. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.
📸 Featured Image: ‘We lift each other up’, printed by Ixtlixochitl Salinas-White Hawk. Relief, linoleum print on Amatl (tree bark) paper.
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