Gerry Quotskuyva, who lives and works in Rimrock, AZ, is a Hopi Tribesman of the Bear Strap Clan from the Second Mesa Village of Shungopavi. His Hopi name, Lomahongva, means “reed standing tall and healthy.” He grew up near the Hopi reservation just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. When Gerry was a child, his family would gather to observe the ceremonies as the katsinam sang, danced and prayed for rain to water their crops.
Gerry would often watch his grandfather carve dolls from cottonwood root to represent either of the hundreds of katsina spirits. As Gerry’s grandfather William carved the dolls, he paid close attention to fine details, painting them and elaborately adorning them with feathers, leather, fabric, and symbols of life’s cycle of regeneration including fertility, growth and harvest, thus encouraging and ensuring its continuity.
Gerry began carving his own katsina dolls in 1994. He starts by using a block of cottonwood root since it is soft and easy to work with and because the roots grow deep into the moist ground, signifying their connection to water. Also, they represent the Hopis’ connection to the underworld where they believe katsinam and Hopi once lived together. The root is then roughly shaped with power tools and then uses a small pocket knife to carve the rest of the doll.
Gerry’s early sculpture work focused on artistic freedom and expression through blending the traditional styles of the dancing dolls with modern spiritual representations. He studied the carvings of many other Hopis such as Delbridge Honanie, which gave him artistic freedom without limitations and Wilmer Kaye, whose carving and finishing techniques he greatly admired. Consequently, several of Quotskuyva’s works express a modern artistic approach rather than that of the more traditional styles. By developing his carving, wood-burning and painting techniques to create various textures, Quotskuyva’s carvings have matured from his crude, early work into more refined and stylized pieces that reveal his artistic passion and depth.
While his dolls become more modern, his paintings retain the way of the Hopi, filled with imagery and religious symbolism and practice with concerns to fertility and life. The katsinam are depicted in his paintings as they are in religion, being essential to human survival as a careful balance between fulfillment and want. They incorporate many symbols representing the clouds and rain. Most of the designs for his paintings come from dreams or visions.