Saturday, March 30, 2013

Katsina Doll Facts

There is much curiosity and miss-information about Hopi Katsina dolls. The Heard Museum's 2010 exhibition "Katsina Dolls: 100 Years of Carving"sought to provide greater clarity on the artform as well as showcase some of the most impressive and important carvers and styles as the form has progressed through the 20th Century. The museum website has a wonderful virtual exhibit of the past show and the information they gathered to present with it bears re-posting here, particularly since we will be hosting the Katsina Market in a couple of weeks. If you would like to view the exhibit and read more, please click here.

Traditionally, katsina dolls are used as teaching tools. They are the carved representations of the Katsinam, the spirit messengers of the universe. The Katsinam come to Hopi in the form of clouds, which bear life-giving rain. The Katsinam appear in physical form in Hopi villages between the winter solstice and the beginning of the monsoon season in July. Different Katsinam represent different aspects of life; for example, the Soyoko Katsinam help teach children proper behavior. Misbehaving children are threatened with being given to the Soyoko, a threat that most often instills a great desire on the part of the child to correct his or her behavior!
The dolls are given to Hopi girls, beginning in infancy, to help them learn about their responsibilities as women in the community. The dolls are carved by initiated Hopi men using cottonwood roots; in earlier days, all katsina dolls were colored with natural dyes, which made them non-toxic for a teething baby to handle. The dolls created for the open market, however, sport modern dyes and paints.
While both the deeper meaning of a katsina doll and the material from which is carved - the root of the cottonwood tree - is unchanged through the centuries, carvers have transformed the outward representation of a katsina doll over time. Over the years, as more non-Hopi collectors became enamored with katsina dolls, and as power tools like Dremel rotary tools became available, Hopi katsina doll carvers also became more creative. The formerly flat doll carvings are now full-figured, with lifelike movement, brighter colors and elaborate regalia. Some contemporary carvers make the cottonwood root from which the dolls are carved seem to move as if it is the drape of a robe or a rain sash. Another facet of katsina doll carving is that young carvers like Ryon Polequaptewa are reviving the carving of more traditional dolls. Some of Polequaptewa's dolls will be on display during the exhibition.

Artistic Approaches
At present time, there are roughly three approaches artists take to creating a figure. One approach is realism and action, representing a figure as it would look and move in ceremony. This approach has been greatly aided by the tools and materials developed since the 1970s. Another approach, begun in the mid-1980s, is to represent the Katsinam as carvers did in the early 1900s but with the contemporary carver’s individual style. The third approach is to carve not an actual katsina doll but a sculptural figure representing that represents the Katsina and may tell a story.
Like the changing nature of katsina doll carving, the Heard’s collections come from many different sources and eras. The older collection dates as far back as the early 1900s and contains pieces from the Fred Harvey Company Collection. The company acquired katsina dolls through three major sources including C.L. Owen, an anthropologist with the Field Museum in Chicago. The Heard also has items from five other collections in its possession, including that of Sen. Barry Goldwater. The famous Goldwater Katsina Doll Collection bridges the early years of the 20th century and reaches into the mid-century years, as does the Joann Phillips Collection, which is rich in mid-20th century carvings.
Selections from these older collections join the more contemporary carvings of the Sid and Ruth Schultz collection to create a visual history of katsina doll carving. The Schultz collection incorporates the best of recent carvings by artists who fully explore the use of modern carving tools and many distinctive treatments.
However, even though katsina dolls created for the public have evolved into more of an artform, the ancient spirituality of the katsina religion still endures and is nurtured in Hopi communities. The ardor of collectors for the dolls that have been used to teach proper behavior and what it means to be a Hopi for millennia also endures.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mata Ortiz Pottery Show and Sale

Art enthusiasts are invited to attend Heard Museum North Scottsdale’s Mata Ortiz Pottery Show and Sale, a display of the distinguished Mexican pottery handmade by potters from Mata Ortiz, Mexico. 

The art exhibition will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 17, at Heard North, 32633 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. The weekend art show will feature premier Mata Ortiz pots, Zapotec weavings and Oaxacan wood carvings by Jacobo Ángeles. 

The select pottery will be priced from $100 to $900. 

Mata Ortiz pottery, named for the small town in Chihuahua, Mexico, in which it is made, is an inspired recreation of ancient pottery found near archeological sites in Casas Grandes, Mexico. Damian Quezada, nephew of the art movement’s founder Juan Quezada, and Jorge Quintana, a fellow master of Mata Ortiz pottery, will be present at the Scottsdale exhibition. 

Juan Quezada revived the centuries-old pottery style in the 1970s with his own modern twist. According to, he incorporated the contemporary Mimbres designs of the Southwest and Native American cultures to the ceramic pieces and Mata Ortiz pottery was born. The intricately designed pots require an intensive process, with each artist digging the clay, molding the coils, painting the design and then firing the piece in the same method that Mexican artists have used for hundreds of years.

Pottery by Damian Quezada

According to a Sept. 1, 2008, article in by Alvin Starkman, the wooden animal carvings of Jacobo Ángeles have been featured in exhibits at Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art, the Smithsonian, and other art galleries across the globe. The animals of all shapes and sizes are carved from the wood of copal trees by Ángeles and then painted in bright, vivid colors by his wife Maria, Starkman wrote. The colorful designs are inspired by the visuals of ancient Zapotec art and modern Mata Ortiz pottery, he said. Modern Zapotec weavings will also be on display at the art show.

Carving by Jacopo and Maria Angeles

What: Mata Ortiz Pottery Show and Sale
When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday- March 15-17, 2013
Times: Fri/ Sat: 10am- 4pm, Sun: 11am-4pm
Where: Heard North
32633 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale,AZ 85262