Set of Four Paintings of Katsinam

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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. Quoyavema was a contemporary of Fred Kabotie, Waldo Mootzka and Otis Polelonema.  He appears to have been most active in the 1930s. Quoyavema was one of the Hopi artists that worked to provide scenes of Hopi ceremonial life to John Louw Nelson, the Museum of American Indian Heye Foundation’s Director of Research.  Nelson commissioned a series of paintings from the aforementioned artists to build a collection of Hopi ceremonial scenes, in theory for the museum’s collections, but more likely to obtain illustrations for his 1937 novel Rhythm for Rain.  This novel was described as “The Drama and Ancient Culture of the Hopi Indians Portrayed in the Epic Story of the Great Drought . . .” Seven of the paintings included in Nelson’s book are attributed to Quoyavema.

Quoyavema was from the Second Mesa villages of Shipaulovi and Mishongnovi. Several of the Rhythm for Rain paintings attributed to him depict ceremonies as they would occur at the village of Mishongnovi.   Quoyavema appears to have only painted for a short period. Later in life, he appeared in films. In addition, there is evidence that in the 1960s he was a significant participant in resistance to the Hopi Tribal Council and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Quoyavema is represented in the collections of the Denver Art Museum, Gilcrease Institute, Museum of the American Indian and the Southwest Museum.

These four untitled paintings of various Katsinam, framed together underneath black matting, create a powerful presentation.  Quoyavema’s work here is excellent—satisfying from a distance but most rewarding when viewed closely. His linework is remarkably fine in the areas that demand such precision.  The Katsinam’s masks, headdresses and clothing were created with focused precision. His work becomes a bit more loose and lively with the dancers’ bodies, which eschew detailed linework in favor of thick streaks of mostly opaque color.  Slightly darker colors were used for outlines and shading, ensuring that the dancers’ bodies appear as carefully textured as their clothing and masks.

Artist Signature - Riley Sunrise (1914-2006) Quoyavema or KwayeshvaThe Katsinam are, from left to right: Tuukwinugw (or “Cumulus Cloud”), Awatovi Sooyokotaqa, Pookonghoya (or “War Boy”), and Heheya.  Quoyavema’s depictions of these four Katsinam are, without a doubt, of the same quality as his better-known peers. Had he continued painting rather than stopped after a brief period, he would most likely have been remembered as one of the great early Hopi painters.  The painting on the far left is signed “Quoyavema.” The others are unsigned, but are undoubtedly also Quoyavema’s work. Their similar materials—the dark brown paper, most notably—and the unique perspective from which the viewer sees the Katsinam suggest that the pieces were completed as a group.  The manner in which they are presented—framed together in gold frame, in a horizontal line under black matting—is ideal for these four exemplary Hopi paintings.


Condition: this Set of Four Paintings of Katsinam is in very good condition for their age, with a few small stains and imperfections 

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: Southwest Indian Painting: A Changing Art by Clara Lee Tanner

Riley Sunrise (1914-2006) Quoyavema or Kwayeshva
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