The Balance of Art and Life: Hopi carver Leroy Poomasatee

Kuwanvenga’s Art Corner

Sitting in his small, cozy home in Hotevilla, with his wife, Lynette seated next to him, Hopi Katsina carver Leroy Poomasatee shows his latest creations. His two small figures about 6-8 inches in height, including the base, are fine examples of the contemporary style of carving found on the Hopi mesas.

Poomasatee's style of carving is categorized as contemporary because of his use of acrylics and the body is made of one piece with the arms, sometimes legs and details added later from other pieces of carved pako (cottonwood). "I like the katsina dolls that are made out of one piece. I have not tried it yet," quipped Poomasatee when asked about his carving.

"I was about 16 when I started carving. I taught myself by watching others who were carving. I like to carve all kinds of katsinas, even though sometimes I might only make a few. I went to school at Haskell, and did some grad work there learning how to paint houses then I got back to Hotevilla and picked up my carving again. Then I carved when I got home from the Service and here and there when I was working in the Forestry Service. I take a long time to make a doll, I want my dolls to look nice, and I work so much sometimes it is hard to carve a lot. I would like to carve for my living, but maybe I will do that when I am older," stated the 70ish Poomasatee.

Poomasatee is an Army Veteran. As part of the volunteer draft in 1957, he was stationed in Fort Poke, La. He met his soon-to-be wife Lynette, who is also from the village of Hotevilla when they were teenagers in 1956 when she was in nursing school at the Phoenix Indian School. While she worked as a nurse's aide, Poomasatee was finishing up his term of service in the Army. By 1959 his term was over and he returned home to Hotevilla with Lynette and then later moved to Flagstaff so he could work in the Forestry Service located in Happy Jack and also did some work in Pinedale.

In April 1962 Poomasatee married Lynette in a small civil service in Flagstaff. They worked and eventually moved back to Hotevilla. Now Poomasatee carves and is a resource for those who are working on their homes and need his expertise in brick work.

His knowledge of cinder block and traditional Hopi stone work are unsurpassed. He was a foreman on the Hopi house that was built in Peach Springs, and as Lynette happily adds "he even had the time to make my coal house," a short covered edition to the outside of their small home that houses the coal that they use in the wintertime.

For more information about Leroy Poomasatee's dolls or to request coverage for an artist that you are interested in seeing featured in Kuwanvenga's Art Corner please contact Somana at kuwanvenga@yahoo.com

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