- Author: Dolores Tropiano
- Category: Arts
- Issue: Apr 2012
ARTIST OF THE MONTH
Tayron Polequaptewa sold his first katsina doll from the back of a station wagon in a part of Arizona where “Don’t worry, be Hopi” T-shirts were bestsellers. The Hopi artist made $5 from the sale and returned to the reservation with a goal: to carve out a decent living by carving katsina dolls.
That was in 2000. These days, his award-winning katsinas, also known as kachina dolls, sell for $80 to $6,000. He is one of 100 artists participating April 14 in the Heard Museum’s 11th Annual Katsina Doll Marketplace – the world’s largest gathering of carvers.
Polequaptewa, 42, is best known for his simple, old-style ogre dolls, which, like all katsinas, represent a specific spirit central to the Hopi religion and are used as a
teaching tool. The ogre represents discipline. “They are kind of in your face,” he says.
Unlike many carvers who employ motorized tools, Polequaptewa uses his pocket knife to carve his 10- to 16-inch dolls. Then he mixes pigment for paint and adorns his figures with the feathers of turkeys, parrots and pheasants. Each doll takes anywhere from three days to a month to create.
Born on Second Mesa in Arizona as part of the Sun Clan, Polequaptewa learned to carve as part of his initiation into the katsina society, honing his skills at pow wow trade events. He divides his time between Flagstaff and Phoenix. When he’s not working as a concrete laborer, he’s in his shop, blasting heavy metal music and transforming cottonwood roots into rare works of art. For more information, visit heard.org.