Heard Museum
‘A Gathering of Carvers' on April 9th at the Heard, is a free event expected to draw at least 100 artists.

100 Katsina Doll Makers Will Converge at Heard’s Gathering of Carvers

Lee Allen

Hopi katsina doll carvers are packing their knives and carvings and heading to Heard Museum in Phoenix for the 15th annual Katsina Doll Marketplace, called ‘A Gathering of Carvers.’ The free April 9th event is expected to draw at least 100 artists.  

The GOC is the nation’s largest gathering of Hopi carvers in a one-day “Show and Sell” opportunity in which traditional and contemporary styles of the unique creations will be on display. Event coordinators at the museum call the event “An educational and culturally-enriching day.”

According to several sources in the native community, the meaning of Katsina Dolls are extensive.

According to the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, the Katsina Dolls. or Tithu, function as spirit messengers between mortals and the spiritual domain. “Hopi kachina dolls have evolved from a primitive religious symbol into a modern art form,” writes Helga Teiwes in her book, Kachina Dolls: The Art of Hopi Carvers.”  

91-year-old lifelong Hopi kachina carver Willis Kewanwytewa brought two traditional dolls to the carver show last year.  He quickly sold both of them.  (Photo: Lee Allen)

Anna Silas (Tewa-Hopi member of the Tobacco Clan and director of the Hopi Cultural Center Museum) writes in her book, Journey into Hopi Land, “Kachinas are supernatural beings. Hopi refer to them as spirits of their people to whom they pray for health, happiness, life, and rain.”

One featured doll carving created by Charles Chimerica (valued at $1,500) is a “Half Clown and Half Corn” doll which will be given away to the winner of a drawing to take place at the end of the show.

This year's featured doll by Hopi carver Charles Chimerica isHalf Clown and Half Corn.  Valued at $1,500, it will be given away at the end of the show in a drawing.  (Photo: Heard Museum)

Another feature of the 2016 gathering will be a carvings by Gerry Quatskuyva (Bear Strap clan, Yaqui, Hispanic) a celebrated carver since 1994 who is also referred to as “The Michelangelo of Hopi Carvers.”

Quatskuyva unveiled a massive project last year, a 4-foot-tall, 50-pound section of cottonwood root that will become the largest piece he has ever attempted.  

“This particular piece of wood has been drying in my garage for nine years until I finally took it to my studio where I could glance at it on a daily basis until it spoke to me about its ultimate form that will become The Matriarchs of Hopi.”

Quatskuyva estimates it will take him 18 months to complete the work - a fusion of many different root arms with a rock naturally and firmly embedded - that will have at least a dozen katsinas carved into it.

Quatskuyva says he will use several tools, such as a Dremel, sandpaper and even a pocketknife to bring out the natural grain.

“I might paint the rock like a sunflower with seeds on it, a radiant design, but I want to leave it in the piece in its raw state. I don’t want to mess with it because that’s Nature’s art right there.”

Award-winning carver/sculptor/painter Gerry Quotskuyva with his 4 1/2'-tall, 50-pound cottonwood trunk that will become THE GNARLY ROOT PROJECT he will work on for the next 18-24 months.  (Photo: Lee Allen)

Allowing for a month away from the project to participate in a residential fellowship at the Institute of American Indian art in Santa Fe, Quatskuyva says closure could come in the fall months of 2018.

Founded in 1929 and recognized internationally for the quality of its diverse collections and world-class exhibitions, the Heard Museum is dedicated to the accurate and sensitive portrayal of Native arts and culture.  Located at 2301 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona.(602) 252-8840 or www.heard.org.


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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Beautiful work and I'm glad that this occasion with attract so many talented Native artists.