Alxander R. Youvella wins Best of Show at 73rd annual Hopi Festival

Emerging artist's first time submittal takes top honors

Photo by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer
Taking seven months to complete and standing at almost four feet high, Alexander Youvella Sr.Õs Best of Show final entry titled ÒSpiritually United,ÓÊpriced at $25,000, was a breathtaking, finely detailed wood carving. Youvella was a first time submitter this year to the Hopi Show takingÊthe top prize home.

Photo by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer Taking seven months to complete and standing at almost four feet high, Alexander Youvella Sr.Õs Best of Show final entry titled ÒSpiritually United,ÓÊpriced at $25,000, was a breathtaking, finely detailed wood carving. Youvella was a first time submitter this year to the Hopi Show takingÊthe top prize home.

FLAGSTAFF--The Museum of Northern Arizona's Hopi Show, the longest running annual art show that focuses completely on Hopi art celebrated its 73rd year throughout the Fourth of July weekend.

This year's Best of Show Winner was a first time carving submitter to the Hopi Festival and his win was a surprise upset to many longtime submitters.

Even so, the win was highly received, admittedly well deserved, delightful and of stellar high art quality.

Taking seven grueling months to create, the top prize-winning carving "Spiritually United,"--stands 3-foot, 8-inch tall with a 21-inch circumference. Alexander R.Youvella, Corn Clan from Walpi Village on First Mesa, took the coveted award of Best of Show for the Museum of Northern Arizona's Hopi Show.

Youvella, a very young emerging Hopi artist, had dozens of people constantly crowding the booth he shared with his father, renowned Hopi carver Tino Youvella, to see the final big prize winner of the day.

Visitors, both native and non-native to Youvella's table that day, were completely impressed by the precision carving and attention to exquisite detail in his piece.

The feathers on the carved eagle wings in his award-winning piece were so finely detailed that it was difficult to count how many hundreds of calculated strokes with a small knife this must have taken to complete.

Youvella credits his father, Tino, with inspiring his initial carving work when he was around 9 years of age.

He said he was originally more interested in sports than art, particularly cross country and wrestling, and won a state championship wrestling title when he was still at Hopi High School. He graduated in 1991.

Eventually, his heart started calling him back to his artwork.

So he listened.

And that listening just paid off.

Advocating a drug and alcohol free lifestyle for not just himself but for other younger Hopis that might want to follow his art path, Youvella says, " Drugs and alcohol aren't worth it at all. All those two do is take from you, and being Hopi, you must remember to always give back and you can't do that if you're under the influence."

Youvella said that his artwork is becoming a very private, thought-provoking place as well.

"I must remember that I must not desecrate our Hopi religion in any way just for the sake of monetary profit, to not offend, because our Hopi ways are sacred. You can bend it so many ways, but it always must have that final respect. I want to honor my people and my artwork, so I try to be mindful of this each time I carve."

Youvella, who is married into the Tesuque Pueblo Tribe in New Mexico makes his home in Santa Fe, N.M., but spends inordinate amounts of time learning more about carving from his father and relatives when he is home at First Mesa.

Youvella is well on his way to becoming a well known entity in the Hopi carving world and the MNA Hopi Show was lucky to be the initiate audience to bring Youvella's award winning art work to world attention.

Winning this year's MNA 2006 Memorial Award, which honors a deceased Hopi artist with a purchase of work from a living Hopi artist that will go into the MNA permanent collection, is Anthony Honahnie, Coyote Clan from Mungapi, Ariz.

Honahnie is a veteran Hopi artist who started his art interest when he was 16 years of age, and still going to Tuba City High School.

It was there that Honahnie became interested in 2 dimensional design and artwork because he had the chance to work under the highly recognized Hopi painter, Burt Preston.

" I was surprised to get to the Friday night Hopi Show reception and find out that I had won this special Memorial Award," Honahnie said. "I have been entering art shows since I was in junior high, but I have not been recognized like this. I am so honored."

Honahnie's inspired water color and colored pencil katsina drawing done on handmade paper was priced at $500 and was purchased by the MNA's permanent collectors to honor the late, Jacquellyn M. Lowe, a very young Hopi artist from the village of Hotevilla who died prematurely this year.

Honahnie has had much training in the two-dimensional field including schooling at the Fine Arts School in Phoenix, the Arizona School of Arts with time spent at both Scottsdale Community College and Arizona State University in both the graphics and marketing departments.

Honahnie said Italian painters like Leonardo DaVinci and minimalist superstar Hopi painters Dan Namingha and Dennis Numkena inspire him.

"I was always so amazed by their simplicity and clean design, but I just couldn't quite get my paintings to look like that, mine are tight and detailed, so now I try to incorporate a little of their style and then some of mine. I am grateful that it all somehow manages to work."

Dr. Robert Bruenig, who is the current director of the Museum of Northern Arizona was also on hand to enjoy the crowd at the Hopi Show.

" I feel incredibly good about how this Hopi Show is going today and really appreciate all the Hopi people who are here," Bruenig said. "It is my fervent hope that every Hopi who is here at this show this weekend, goes away happy and with a full pocketbook. I am very honored to be a part of this continued Hopi Show tradition. "

Music featured at the Hopi Show included both traditional Hopi music by Clark Tenakhongva and contemporary music by Casper and the Mighty 602 Band from Phoenix and flute music by Palmer Saufkie.

The Lomayaoma Dance group provided traditional dancing, while by Joyce Ann Saufkie, Ruby Chimerica, Nita Koruch and Griselda Saufkie demonstrated basket making.

Noted Hopi artists and authorities were on hand to discuss several topics including Dorothy Ami on pottery, Steve La Rance and Bob Lomadafkie on jewelry, Susie Secakuku on archaeology and Dr. Robert Rhodes on "The Hopi School-Hopitutukaiki."

Michele Sockyma gave a guided ethnobotany walk, and Peggy Taylor provided a basket making collecting tour.

(Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, Hopi/Navajo, resides in Hotevilla and is a regular contributor to the Navajo Hopi Observer.)

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