By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
These depictions by O'Keeffe are charming, though she attempted to accurately portray their specific iconography. In a fascinating essay in the catalogue, W. Jackson Rushing III also links O'Keeffe's interest in the Katsinam with that of other artists who were interested in the subject at roughly the same time, in particular Gustave Baumann and Emil Bisttram. And Rushing goes one step further by connecting all of them back to Hopi artists, especially Fred Kabotie, who did it first, and, by extension, to the wood carvers who created the katsina tithu originally, like the unknown nineteenth-century artist who did the stunning "Kookopölö Katsina." It's a radical idea, but Rushing proves it.
I'd never really looked at what I thought were called kachina dolls as being works of art as opposed to religious artifacts. But when I closely examined the expressive carving, the bold painting, the abstraction of the human figure (the face, in particular) it was easy to see their relationship, and that of the Hopi dancers who dress as the Katsinam, to the development of early-twentieth-century modernism in New Mexico — in this case, to the work of O'Keeffe.
The show concludes with contemporary Native American artists using the Katsinam as inspiration and includes paintings by Dan Namingha and two gorgeous weavings by Ramona Sakiestewa. There's also a cruel depiction of O'Keeffe by David Bradley, "O'Keeffe as Whistler's Mother," that shows the artist as simply cashing in on New Mexico.
As readers of this column know, I have a keen interest in the way modernism manifested itself in the West, and Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico is a perfect example of one way in which that happened.