PRESCOTT -- Alexander Youvella Sr. has gone from state champion wrestler to world class kachina carver.
Youvella was a state champion wrestler in the 103 weight class at Hopi High School in the 1980s, but now he earns distinction and money for his kachina carvings.
Youvella won best of show and first place in traditional American Indian Art at the ninth annual Prescott Indian Art Market at Sharlot Hall Museum July 8-9.
One week prior he nailed best of show at the Hopi Festival held Fourth of July weekend at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.
The other winners in Prescott were: Traditional American Indian Art: first, Alexander Youvella Sr.; second, Rena Begay; third, Penny Singer; Sculpture and Carving: first, Baje Whitethorne Sr.; second, Tim Washburn; third, Jordan Torres Sr.; Jewelry: first, Benson Manygoats; second, Allen Aragon; third, Ernie Lister;
Two-dimensional art: first, Michelle Tsosie Sisneros; second, Jose Toledo; third, Baje Whitethorne Sr.; Pottery, first, Rainy Naha; second, Allen Aragon; third, Alvina Yepa.
Judge's Choice was Ferdinand Hooee for jewelry.
In the amphitheater, E.J. Satala from Hopi served as the master of ceremonies. Performers included the Hopi Senom Dancers, Polacca Dance Group, flutist Alex Maldonado with Melissa Maldonado on vocals and Nick Maldonado on percussion
Several renowned artist provided demonstrations including featured artist Evelyn Fredericks sculpting; Leora Kayquopttewa, Jessica Lomatewama and Joyce Saufkie basket weaving; Nanabah Aragon rug weaving; Ernie Lister and Gene Pooyouma silversmithing; Jerry Honawa and Ramson Lomatewama with Hopi kachina carving; Rex Pooyouma making his special moccasins; Alex Maldonado showing how to play the flute; Peter Roybal making bows and arrows; and David Morris displaying his rock art.
Best of show
Youvella took best of show with a kachina that shows the Hopi Eagle Kachina Dance Ceremonial.
"Everything in it is spiritually united. The eagle, singer, drummer and mother earth are all one," he said.
Youvella, 33, said he was ecstatic just be in a show with so many great artists.
"To win something like this, among all these great artists, well I can't explain it. I'm astonished," he said.
Youvella has won awards before in Albuquerque, at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, at the Tempe festival and at the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos, but he said this was his most unexpected victory because of the caliber of artists at this show.
"It was a major milestone to create a piece of this caliber," he said.
Born in Phoenix, he was raised at First Mesa. After graduating from Hopi High, Youvella studied architectural drafting at HTI in Phoenix, but decided that he was more interested in kachina carving.
Youvella's winning piece is on sell for $30,000. Youvella credits his father Tino with teaching him this craft.
Baje Whitethorne Sr. has won awards at many shows for many years so it was no surprise when he took first place for sculpture and third place for two dimensional art.
"It's good to win something. I make things every month, but if I win something twice a year I'm happy," he said.
The winning sculpture is called "Last of the Long Hair
"This sculpture shows the balance in life and nature," he wrote in a summary of the piece.
Whitethorne, who is Navajo, said the face of the Native American with long hair is representative of the generations of the past when the male wore his long hair. He added that today some males are returning to this tradition. The horse has long hair
and a short tail as it would be if it was being prepared for a show.
Night, day, sun and moon are all part of this sculpture with circles on the top representing the milky way. Six turquoise dots represent the six nations of Indian tribes. The four dots are the four directions.
A doorway shows the contrast between the realistic and contemporary worlds. The sculpture is on sale for $4,500.
The third place two dimensional was for an acrylic painting of a canyon scene.
"It has different compositions in different areas," he said.
This piece is for sale for $4,800.
Whitethorne's art is mostly spontaneous and a reflection of his Navajo culture. He is self taught and most of his art shows his life experiences. He also works in abstracts.
Whitethorne's paintings are usually acrylics or water colors, but occasionally he will work in oils.
Born and raised in Shonto, Whitethorne graduated from Tuba City High School. He majored in art at Grand Canyon College and NAU. He continues to work with
schools through residences and consulting jobs. Whitethorne is also working on a new children's book, "Black Stallion." This was written by Walter Farley and will be translated into Navajo.
Whitethorne, who works out of a studio in his home, has four brothers and four sisters. Each is an artist in some way as the family talents include pottery, weaving and jewelry. His mother, Alice, is a renowned weaver.
Whitethorne's paintings can be seen at the following upcoming shows: Artists Demonstration at the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff July 22-23; Reunion
of the Master in Gallup, N.M., July 26; Museum of Northern Arizona Navajo Show July 29-30; and the Smoki Museum show in September.
"It's fun doing this. It's nice to do what you like for a living," he said.
For more information, log onto www.bajewhitethorne.com
First in jewelry
Benson Manygoats, who is Navajo, took first place in jewelry for his "Lady Bug Fire and Ice" bracelet. This bracelet is not only colorful, but intricate and expensive. It has 10 different types of high quality stones including 14 diamonds and four carat gold.
The $35,000 sale price represents the stones and the art work. He has won dozens of shows including Dallas, Denver and the Museum of Northern Arizona, but emphasized that he was honored to win here.
Born and raised in Tohatchi that is where he spent three years with a silversmith learning the craft. That was more than 20 years ago.
His wife Brenda said Benson's secret to success is that he is meticulous.
"I look at his work and I think it's perfect, but it's not done until he says so," she said.
Benson said he loves inlay jewelry.
Benson works out of a shop in Gallup, N.M. For more information about his work, telephone 505-733-2413.
Michelle Tsosie Sisneros, who is Santa Clara Pueblo and Navajo, took first place in two dimensional art for her painting called "Like Popcorn." The painting includes rabbits that she and her husband saw on one of their many fishing trips. The painting also has an abstract vision of the moon and galaxy and is on sale for $950.
"I'm honored to win this award because this is my first time here," she said.
Sisneros has been painting for 10 years and has won awards at the Heard Museum, Santa Fe Indian Market and many other places.
Sisneros said she was inspired by artists Pablita Valerde and Harrison Begay, but she is mostly self taught.
"My paintings reflect the way I see my life as a Native American woman and the experiences I have had as well as the people who have profoundly touched my
life," she said.
Born in Albuquerque, she was raised in Window Rock before studying at the College of Santa Fe.
Aside from her art, Sisneros said she is proud that she served five years as a police officer with the Santa Clara Tribe.
"But I'm too old for that now," she said.
Sisneros' paintings can be found at the Chimayo Trading and Mercantile Post in Chimayo, N.M.
For more information about her paintings, telephone 505-753-8677.
Evelyn Fredericks, who is Hopi, was selected as the featured artist for the show and her sculpture appears on the T-shirt promoting the show.
Fredericks, who has been sculpting for nine years, said she was grateful for being selected as the featured artist.
"I'm honored because of the various artists who are here," she said.
The sculpted piece on the T-shirt is called "Hop Maiden Mano or Little Sister."
Fredericks said the winning sculpture is an accumulation of work over many years. She has been working at this craft for 20 years. She has won awards from Santa Fe Indian Market, Heard Museum and many others.
Born and raised in Kykotsmovi on the Hopi Reservation,
Fredericks graduated from Ganado Mission High School before earning a bachelor of arts from Arizona State University and master of arts in library science from the University of Arizona. For more information about her art work, telephone 505-982-9440 or log on to www.EvelynFredericks.com
Ferdinand Hooee won the judge's award for his sterling silver jewelry that included sleeping beauty turquoise, coral and mother of pearl.
Hooee, who is Zuni Pueblo, said he learned his craft from his mother Ettalynn Laate.
Born and raised on Zuni, he studied diesel mechanics at a technical school before deciding to go into art.
Hooee has won awards at the Gallup Intertribal and the Museum of Northern Arizona. But he was thrilled to win this award.
"It's always good to take home a ribbon because I put it up in our shop on Zuni and when people see the ribbons they always appreciate the art more," he said.
His jewelry can be found at his shop on the Zuni Reservation. For more information about Hooee's jewelry, telephone 505-782-2490.
(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)