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Al Qoyawayma

 (born 1938)
Al H. (Alfred) Qoyawayma is active/lives in Arizona, California.  Al Qoyawayma is known for abstract Indian pottery and sculpture, space engineer.

Al Qoyawayma

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Al Qoyawayma
Alfred H. Qöyawayma is a Hopi potter and bronze sculptor. He was born in Los Angeles on February 26, 1938. Qöyawayma is also a mechanical engineer who has worked in the development of inertial guidance systems and a co-founder of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. He is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. He has a master's degree in engineering from the University of Southern California.

His work incorporates "cross cultural elements" and a "minimalist" style. Many of his pots include representations of maize, which is a sacred part of Hopi religion. "For the people of the mesas corn is sustenance, ceremonial object, prayer offering, symbol, and sentient being unto itself. Corn is the Mother in the truest sense that people take in the corn and the corn becomes their flesh, as mother milk becomes the flesh of the child."

Qöyawayma finds the clay and processes it himself. He uses a spiral coiling technique, and fires his pots at a "very high temperature" which "results in vitrification of the clay which creates a smooth and polished surface." He uses coal to produce these high temperatures, which is a technique long used by his Coyote clan of the Hopi.

Qöyawayma learned traditional Hopi ceramics and legends from his aunt Polingyasi Elizabeth Qöyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White). She is the author of a book published in 1977 called No Turning Back: A Hopi Woman's Struggle to Live in Two Worlds in which she wrote: "Evaluate the best there is in your own culture and hang onto it, for it will be foremost in our life; but do not fail to take the best from other cultures to blend with what you already have. Don't set limitations on yourself".

Pottery expert Lee M. Cohen has written that "Nothing quite like Al Qoyawayma's pottery has ever existed before, though his work could not possibly assume its sublime form without the artist's profound appreciation for the ways of his Hopi ancestors."

In 2002, astronaut John Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw tribe, took one of Qöyawayma's ceramic pots into orbit aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-113, which docked with the International Space Station. That pot, described as a "miniature Sikyatki-style seed jar with corn motif" is now in the collection of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Qöyawayma received a Fulbright fellowship to assist the Maori people of New Zealand rebuild their tradition of ceramic pottery making. He has consulted with the Smithsonian Institution on ancient Sikyátki ceramics.

    •    Night of the First Americans, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, 1982
    •    First Showing of Contemporary American Indian Art, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC, 1982-83
    •    Al Qoyawayma: A Retrospective, Taylor Museum at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, 1985
    •    Head, Heart and Hands: Native American Craft Traditions in a Contemporary World, American Craft Museum, New York, 1999[5]
    •    The Road to Aztlan, Austin Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, 2001
    •    Jewels of the Southwest, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, 2002
    •    Changing Hands, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, 2003
    •    Inaugural Opening, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, "Space Pot", 2004
    •    HOME: Native People of the Southwest, Heard Museum, 2005
    •    Gift of the Gods: Exploring Maize, Culture and Indigenous Art in the Americas, Hearst Gallery, St. Mary's College of California, Moraga, California, 2011.

Biography from Blue Rain Gallery
As with his Native traditions, the pottery traditions of Al Qoyawayma run deep.  He is contemplative by nature and studiously quiet at times, but at other times he can be gregarious, especially when describing his passion for the clay and its heritage.

As a descendent of the Coyote Clan on the Hopi-Tewa Reservation, Qoyawayma (pronounced ko-YAH wy-mah) is a direct recipient of the Sikyatki tradition of ceramics, which traces to 1400 A.D., and earlier, and whose archaeological site is found on the Reservation. His style has its roots in the low shouldered forms of the Sikyatki culture, most likely of Keres speaking peoples, rather than Hopi. The Sikyatki tradition was first discovered by the Smithsonian archaeologists in the early 1890s. That discovery is credited by some scholars as the inspiration for the style of Nampeyo, the most famous potter of the Hopi-Tewas and a resident of the Tewa village of Hano.

Al learned from his aunt Polingaysi Qoyawayma (aka Elizabeth Q. White) the aesthetics and philosophy of their ancient tradition. Another major influence in his artistic approach was his relative Charles Loloma, a major innovator in ceramics and jewelry, as well as Al's father, Poliyumptewa, a painter.

Al's ceramics reflect the hues and shadows of the high desert landscape. About his original sculptural/repousse technique, Al describes himself as an experimentalist creating in an eclectic minimalist style. His goal is to reflect a timelessness in style, and the migrations and origins myths in the Americas. Perhaps best known of his works are the architectural series and large vases with dancing figures.

More recently Al has added a new carved polychrome style. Feathers, dancers, insects and other symbols are carved in relief, incised, and sometimes on recessed planes. Thus, several individual surface plains and textures may be present in the same piece. In a new and unusual step, some of the polychrome surfaces are painted and polished in a continuous gradient of many colors, as might be obtained in oil painting techniques.

Influenced by his Native culture, Al sees little differentiation between culture, the arts, science and the spiritual worlds. His creations are diverse: they vary from patented high technology work to his innovative art. His education and interests are equally diverse.

Al sees education as a key survival strategy for Native peoples. He has served a six year Presidential appointment as Vice-Chairman of the Institute of American Indian Art (IAIA). That was balanced by serving as the co-founder and first Chairman of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), a 25 year old international membership organization serving Native students and the new cadre of Native professionals.

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About  Al Qoyawayma

Born:  1938 - Los Angeles, California
Known for:  abstract Indian pottery and sculpture, space engineer