Meet Our Featured Artist, Gerry Quotskuyva
Gerry Quotskuyva, who lives and works in Rimrock, AZ, is a Hopi Tribesman of the Bear Strap Clan from the Second Mesa Village of Shungopavi. His Hopi name, Lomahongva, means "reed standing tall and healthy." He grew up near the Hopi reservation just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.
The katsina religion was developed by Hopis in the early 1300's to unify their growing villages. All Hopis are initiated into the katsina religion between the ages of 8-12 to strengthen their connections to the Hopi in terms of obligations and responsibilities. When Quotskuyva was a child, his family would gather to observe the ceremonies as the katsinam sang, danced and prayed for rain to water their crops, which is why all katsinam signify cloud deities. They are believed to be intermediaries between the spirit world and the present, teaching us about all living things (outsiders often call them kachina, mispronouncing the traditional term katsina).
Quotskuyva would often watch his grandfather carve dolls from cottonwood root to represent either of the hundreds of katsina spirits. All babies are given simple, small and flat katsina dolls to play with.
Our 2014 IACF Raffle Item
This intricately carved "Corn Maiden" katsina doll by our Featured Artist, Gerry Quotskuyva, will be available as a Raffle Item at this year's Mesa Verde Country Indian Arts & Culture Festival. Standing 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" by 17" tall, this piece was carved from cottonwood root, painted with acrylics and mounted on a walnut base. Value is $1,200. Raffle tickets are $5 each or 6 for $25. View larger image
After infancy, boys are given bows and arrows and tools of the like, while girls continue to receive katsina dolls once a year. Each doll becomes more cylindrical as the girls come of age (pubescent years) until they are initiated into the katsina cult and then the dolls become more detailed. These dolls are used to teach the girls about the katsina religion and who each katsina is, what they look like, their names, personalities and dance.
As Gerry's grandfather William carved the dolls, he paid close attention to fine details, painting them and elaborately adorning them with feathers, leather, fabric, and symbols of life's cycle of regeneration including fertility, growth and harvest, thus encouraging and ensuring its continuity. Some katsina dolls remain playful in appearance while others symbolize a stronger dignity of purpose.
Quotskuyva began carving his own katsina dolls in 1994. He starts by using a block of cottonwood root since it is soft and easy to work with and because the roots grow deep into the moist ground, signifying their connection to water. Also, they represent the Hopis' connection to the underworld where they believe katsinam and Hopi once lived together. The root is then roughly shaped with power tools and "then I use what I call my '$9.95 Wal-Mart special' pocket knife and carve the rest of the doll" he says. His early sculpture work focused on artistic freedom and expression through blending the traditional styles of the dancing dolls with modern spiritual representations.
Crow Mother Katsina doll carved from cottonwood root
"I try to bring the old together with the new to show the continuing circle of life." He studied the carvings of many other Hopis such as Delbridge Honanie, which gave him artistic freedom without limitations and Wilmer Kaye, whose carving and finishing techniques he greatly admired. Consequently, several of Quotskuyva's works express a modern artistic approach rather than that of the more traditional styles. By developing his carving, wood-burning and painting techniques to create various textures, Quotskuyva's carvings have matured from his crude, early work into more refined and stylized pieces that reveal his artistic passion and depth. "Each piece creates and moves the spirit of the wood, the spirit of the carver, the spirit of the katsinam, and the spirit of the people who buy them. It is a full circle. Many contribute, many receive."
I try to bring the old together with the new to show the continuing circle of life. Each piece creates and moves the spirit of the wood, the spirit of the carver, the spirit of the katsinam, and the spirit of the people who buy them. It is a full circle. Many contribute, many receive.
Hilili Katsina doll carved from cottonwood root
While his dolls become more modern, his paintings retain the way of the Hopi, filled with imagery and religious symbolism and practice with concerns to fertility and life. The katsinam are depicted in his paintings as they are in religion, being essential to human survival as a careful balance between fulfillment and want.
Quotskuyva uses acrylic paints on canvas and paper and also offers giclée prints on smooth fine art paper and canvas. They incorporate many symbols representing the clouds and rain. "Most of my designs for paintings come from dreams or visions. They also contain certain meanings associated with things that I have learned in life. I love sharing my culture as I work."
Mixed Media painting entitled "Morning Song" by Gerry Quotskuyva
Quotskuyva has won numerous awards of excellence in sculpture and paintings, and his work has been placed in several permanent museum exhibits. His art has also been featured in posters, publications and has aired in "Living in Balance on Shakti-Hill," a three-part television series featuring entertainers, healers and artists in Sedona, Arizona. Tohono Chul Park in Tucson hosted Gerry's first, and highly successful, one-man exhibit titled "Contemporary Fragments" in the Spring of 2002. His second solo exhibit, "Ancestral Echoes", ran from Sept. through Oct. 2004 at Nichols Gallery on the Pitzer College campus in Claremont, CA. Gerry is currently working on a permanent collection for Xavier University in Cincinnati that consists of over fifty pieces including a 48" double Shalako carving titled "Sacred Rites".
This carving titled "Mudhead Love" won Best of Show at last year's Southwest Indian Art Fair at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson.