Paintings of Katsinam – Set of Four


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Riley Sunrise (1914-2006) Quoyavema or Kwayeshva


Riley Sunrise (1914-2006) Quoyavema or Kwayeshva  is a lesser known but very significant Hopi artist who was most active in the 1930s.  Quoyavema was from the Second Mesa villages of Shipaulovi and Mishongnovi. Jeanne Snodgrass’ American Indian Painters: A Biographical Directory describes his beginnings as an artist:  “While in the third grade at Anadarko, the artist submitted a series of Hopi symbols in a statewide newspaper contest and received second award. Adopted by a Kiowa family, his work seems to reflect the influence of Kiowa painting.”  Though not as well known as his peers Waldo Mootzka, Otis Polelonema, and Fred Kabotie, Quoyavema created paintings that are highly collectible.

Snodgrass’ book notes that Quoyavema created paintings for the permanent collections of the Southwest Museum and Museum of the American Indian.  His paintings are included in many other prominent public collections, including the Denver Art Museum, Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Cranbrook Institute of Science, and Marion Koogler McKnay Art Institute.  None of the major texts related to Native art contain exact birth and death dates, but an IMDB page (which exists because of Quoyavema’s participation as an extra in films like “Annie Get Your Gun” and “The Thing from Another World”) provides this information: June 14, 1914 and August 17, 2006.

Four untitled watercolor paintings of Hopi Katsinam comprise this beautiful display.  The Katsinam are, from left to right: Qootsaf, Sootukwngwtaqa (or “heart of the sky”), Aaloosaqa  or “Muyingw,” depending on where he appears), and Qooa. Quoyavema’s work here is exceptional. As is to be expected of a Native painter working in the traditional style, his Katsinam are pictured in great detail, without any foreground or background.  Quoyavema’s watercolor paints were applied carefully, varying in opacity to accurately represent the look of the Katsinam’s painted bodies. These four alluring images are framed together, in a thin gold frame, underneath black matting.

Artist Signature - Riley Sunrise (1914-2006) Quoyavema or KwayeshvaAn avid collector of early Hopi paintings acquired and framed these four paintings many years ago.  The painting on the far left is signed “Quoyavema.” In the lower right corner of the painting on the far right, “W. Mootzka” is written in pencil.  While we cannot say with certainty, as the original collector is now deceased, we believe that “W. Mootzka” is not a signature. All signs point to this “W. Mootzka” being an incorrect label added by someone else, perhaps the original collector.  Firstly, it’s written in pencil rather than paint, using handwriting that does not match that of Mootzka’s actual signature. Secondly, the Katsina himself looks much more like Quoyavema’s work than Mootzka’s, which usually features much more shading. Finally, and most significantly, the four pieces here look to have been painted by the same hand, using the same materials.  That one of them is marked with Quoyavema’s signature in paint allows us to confidently attribute the paintings to the outstanding early Hopi painter.


Condition: Very good condition for their age.  The piece on the far right has a water stain on its lower edge

Provenance: Original property of Dr. and Mrs. Harold Dunbar Corbusier who had a home in Santa Fe on Old Santa Fe Trail. It was passed down by them to their daughter, Frances Corbusier O'Brien, who, in turn, passed it down to her son, Dr. David S. O'Brien, the current owner. It has been in this same family for three generations.

Recommended Reading: American Indian Painters: A Biographical Directory by Jeanne Snodgrass

Riley Sunrise (1914-2006) Quoyavema or Kwayeshva
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