Hopi Festival begins Saturday

Dawa and Corn Spirts by Gerry Lomahongva. Submitted photo

Dawa and Corn Spirts by Gerry Lomahongva. Submitted photo

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The 82 annual Hopi Festival of Arts and Culture takes place July 4-5 at the Museum of Northern Arizona and features award-winning artists and presenters from the Hopi villages in a celebration Hopi art, culture and tradition.

The Hopi Festival includes more than 60 award-winning artists, musical performances and dances, authentic food and artist demonstrations. Kid's can enjoy puppet shows and take home crafts.

In addition, Heritage Insight programs by Hopi educators, scholars and artists will highlight ancestry, migration and the efforts to preserve language and agricultural traditions. KUYI HOPI Radio will broadcast from MNA live all weekend.

"For more than 80 years, the Museum and Hopi artisans, native scholars and performers have collaborated on a rich presentation of Hopi life and culture for the public," said Carrie M. Heinonen, director and CEO of MNA. "This event provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about aspects of Hopi life directly from artists and presenters."

With thousands of distinct art pieces from emerging and master Hopi artists including jewelry, paintings, katsina dolls, baskets, rattles and pottery available for sale there is something for everyone.

"The Hopi Festival is a wonderful event to meet and buy directly from the artists, learn the cultural significance behind their work and spend a day or two immersed in the history of the tribe," said Linda Martin, manager of the Heritage Programs at MNA.

One of the artists featured is Gerry Lomahongva. He is a member of the Bear Strap Clan from Second Mesa, Village of Shungopavi. He grew up in Flagstaff. His Hopi name, Lomahongva, means "reed standing tall and healthy." He is an award winning artist, garnering two Best of Shows and awards from the Heard Museum, MNA, the Sharlot Hall Museum, Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis and the Sante Fe Indian Market. He has also been chosen as one of 40 artists to display his work at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian's annual Holiday Art Market in Washington D.C.

"It's a very exclusive market but I was fortunate to have been selected for the past eight years in a row," Lomahongva said.

Lomahongva now is slowing down. He has built the infrastructure that he and his wife need to survive so he can attend shows like the Hopi Festival, which is right up the hill from where he lives in Rimrock, Arizona.

He said the intimacy of the Hopi Show is what makes him excited to attend after many years of not going to the celebration of Hopi art and culture.

"It's nice to go back," he said. "It's good to be amongst my peers again. I am happy that they will accept me. Even though you are inundated with art work from one culture, everybody is so receptive and sharing. It is more than an art show, it's a gathering of friends and family."

His grandfather used to come into town to sell his pieces at the museum during the Hopi Show.

"There's a long history of, not only the families that come off the reservation, but collectors who have developed friendships with the families," Lomahongva said.

While he also paints and is dabbling in bronzes, he mainly carves kachinas. When he started carving 22 years ago, he studied the different styles first. The traditional style was the full figure dolls, with the full body and all the proper markings and coloration and clothing on them. The sculpture style was the head of the kachina with random designs down below but you could see the shape of the wood that was used, and it didn't have a body at all. Lomahongva ended up fusing the two together where he did the sculpture style with no body but he only did kachinas where he could put proper clothing and coloration on them that was true to form.

"In the sculpture style, it allowed a lot of leeway where I could put my own personal injections into it as an art form," he said. "I would leave the cape open with a foot sticking out and a hand to give you the impression that there was a body within the piece for the embodiment of the soul and the cape would be open on one side for the releasing of the spirit that emanates from within."

He found that people responded to his contemporary injection into traditional Hopi carving, though it did take him 18 months of struggle educating people about what he was doing for it to catch on.

"All of the sudden, within the next year, I found I had a national following," Lomahongva said. "I found I couldn't make enough of them. That was a good feeling."

Now, he is doing more full figured styles of dolls, which is now classified as the contemporary style since the old style with mineral pigments has come back.

He said he is able to look at a piece of Cottonwood root, the traditional wood dictated by Hopi tradition, and see the image he wants to end up with. He said a few of the pueblos in New Mexico use the branches of the Cottonwood tree but the Hopi use the root because it is a softer wood and does not have a strong grain, so it does not sliver.

He has unique pieces that are a bridge from the traditional style of Hopi carving. He was able to see those pieces fully formed in the Cottonwood root before he began carving.

"I had a friend one time take a piece of root and set it on a table and boom I could see exactly what it was going to be," Lomahongva said. "That happens a lot throughout the years. A lot of my work tends to be not what you normally see."

But, while the general image is always there, he allows himself a certain amount of freedom for the image to speak or flow as he is carving.

"Sometimes the grain of wood will take me in different directions," Lomahongva said. "As a carver or a sculptor, they say that the removal process over the addition process is a lot more difficult when you are carving something. But the truth is, when you are carving something, if you just allow yourself to flow with it something more unique comes out of it."

Some of the designs that he came up with using that method took him in unexpected directions that were really unique.

He is working on a project called The Gnarly Root Project, which he intends to blog about and a student who is attending the Yavapai Film Institute will film his progress as he carves a massive piece of Cottonwood root.

"It's a phenomenal piece of root and what we're looking at doing is showing the whole process of carving that from start to finish," Lomahongva said. "That will be an 18 month to two year project."

More information about Lomahongva's work is at http://www.kachinacarver.net/ or on Facebook.

More information about the Hopi Festival of Arts and Culture can be found at http://musnaz.org/.

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