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Hopi artwork exhibit opens at NMSU University Museum

The New Mexico State University Museum will host an opening reception for its newest show, “Itaa Katsi: Our Life,” an exhibition of Hopi artwork, from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in Kent Hall.


Blue and red Hopi artwork
“Kopatsoki (Headdress) with Katsin Mana (Katsina Maiden) and Corn,” a two-sided Hopi artwork, made using wood, paint and hide, will be on display during the NMSU University Museum’s newest exhibition, “Itaa Katsi: Our Life,” opening April 7. (Courtesy photo)

“In this exhibition, we are showing the continuum and diversity of Hopi artworks in examples mainly from the mid-to-late twentieth century to the present,” said Michelle J. Lanteri, exhibition curator and art history graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences. “While the objects reveal changes in materials and styles, the constant is the artist’s employment of visual motifs that reflect places of home: the Hopi villages on First, Second and Third Mesas in northeastern Arizona.”

The exhibition will feature around 80 works from the permanent collection, as well as new acquisitions from Hopi artists Spencer Nutima, Linda Lomahaftewa, Ramson Lomatewama and Jessica Lomatewama.

Many forms of Hopi artwork will be on display, including gourd rattles, prints, katsina dolls, silverwork, wicker and coiled plaques, headdresses, clay ceramic vessels, hand-blown glass figures and more.

“Hopi artworks in this exhibition portray themes such as migration, gratitude for sustenance, social dances, spirits of Hopi ancestors, the community ceremonial cycle and the six directions: north/south, east/west, above/below,” Lanteri said.

Hopi artists represent the six directions in their work using different colors, Lanteri explained. North is yellow, south is red, east is white, west is blue-green, above is black, and below is depicted using all colors. The colors signal to viewers the directions from which the artwork originates.

Hopi artwork also commonly depicts prayers for rain and moisture using items such as feathers, dragonflies, crosses, tadpoles, clouds, butterflies, birds, turtles and lightning. A zigzag line, often shown with an arrow at its tip, represents lightning. The terrace design – another frequently used motif – signifies clouds.

Programming for this exhibition will include an artist talk by Linda Lomahaftewa, assistant studio arts professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts, at 6 p.m. Friday, April 29. “Four Rivers,” a series of monoprints by Lomahaftewa, will be on display during the exhibition.

“The Four Rivers series tells a story about the Hopi migration path,” Lomahaftewa said. “There were four rivers that the Hopi people crossed in their migration journey to get to where they are today, as told to me by my grandfather, Viets Lomahaftewa. This is my visual interpretation of that part of the migration story.”

“Itaa Katsi: Our Life” is curated with the help of Spencer Nutima, exhibition lead advisor, and Anna Marie Strankman, curator of collections and exhibits at NMSU’s University Museum.

The reception is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. For more information about this and other free, community-wide events, visit http://univmuseum.nmsu.edu/.