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 Waldo Mootzka  (1910 - 1940)

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/Arizona      Known for: Hopi figure-ceremonial-dance painting, silversmithing

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Ad Code: 3
Waldo Mootzka
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Adobe Gallery:
"Waldo Mootzka had no formal art training.  He often observed Fred Kabotie painting at Oraibi Day School, and it may have been there that he learned the technique of watercolor painting.  Later, in Santa Fe, he was sponsored by Frank Patania, who taught him silversmithing. At the time of his death, Mootzka was devoting almost all his artistic talents to silverwork". -Snodgrass 1968

"Mootzka was especially noted for his representations of tribal ceremonies and mythological scenes.  Using a full palette, he demonstrated a great feeling for color. Also notable was his attention to fine detail.  Mootzka experimented with a variety of styles and some of his work suggests a European influence due to a three-dimensional effect achieved through modeling with colors." -Dockstader 1977

Mootzka was educated in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

He died in 1940 in an automobile accident in Phoenix, at the young age of 30.  His work is extremely rare.

Patrick Lester, The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters

Biography from Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site:
Waldo Mootzka was born near the Hopi village of Oraibi in 1903.  He attended the United States Indian School in Albuquerque, before art was taught there, then returned to Oraibi.  It was with the school that he was most associated. He seems to have begun painting in about 1930.

From then until the end of his life, he lived in Santa Fe, supporting himself by painting and silversmithing.  Although he painted alone a great deal, much of his work is like that of Fred Kabotie.  During the 1930s, in Santa Fe Mootzka painted in part for John Louw Nelson, who also employed other Indians to depict native life for him.  Many of Mootzka's works appear in the volume Rhythm for Rain, by Nelson, as do paintings by Kabotie and several other Hopis.  It was while he was in Santa Fe, a second time, that Mootzka came under the influence of the late Frank Patania.  The latter employed the Hopi artist, teaching him the craft of silversmithing, although he continued to paint during this period.

The paintings of Mootzka combine artistic quality with true recordings of Indian life.  Figures are well drawn, displaying a neat and even fragile quality in outlines.  Composition of dance groups is fair.  A neat separateness of line-work may be said to characterize Mootzka's painting.  Lemos speaks of Mootzka's pictures as "beautifully composed."  Subject matter treated by Mootzka is quite varied, despite his ever-Hopi emphasis on kachinas, which he presents singly or in groups.  Animals, everyday scenes about his village, and, most particularly, legendary subjects, all received his attention at some time in his career.  

In painting, Mootzka was influenced by European tradition in techniques of painting, particularly in the matter of modeling in color and in some three-dimensional portrayals.  Perhaps Mootzka was at his artistic best in the painting of ceremonial and mythological scenes.  Certainly he carries one to imaginative heights in such portrayals.

What he lacked in matters pertaining to background and perspective, Mootzka compensated for in color and splendid detail.  Not only did he employ numerous colored papers for the sake of variety, but also he used a full palette.  Although pink seems to have been a favored color, it was well handled.  Pink mudheads or pink masked kachinas are balanced by kachinas of varicolored masks and costumes, all equally vividly portrayed.  In other pictures, colors may be subdued or even faded.

Paintings by Mootzka occasionally reflect the whimsical humor of the Indian.  In one of the Hopi rites, a race is held to help speed the growth of the crops.  Mootzka gives a faithful and interesting presentation of this performance; the masked figure, with a great pair of scissors, has caught his victim and holds up his hair, ready to cut it off.  This humor was somewhat unusual with Mootzka; more frequently he presented the single or multiple kachina figures in a formal style.  He also created some remarkable works in which he dealt with the theme of fertility in a grand, symbolic and allegoric way not attempted since the days of prehistoric Hopi kiva murals.  Although his technique and interpretation are thoroughly modern, he imbued his renditions with a majestic and mystical aura, reminiscent of the early ceremonial art.

The art works of Mootzka are held in the collections of Newark Museum, New Jersey; Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Amerind Foundation Museum, Dragoon, Arizona; Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; and Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Ganado, Arizona.

Early in 1940, Mootzka was in an automobile accident that aggravated a tubercular condition that, in turn, caused his death in less than a year.


Art in America.  Museums, Galleries, Artists Guide:  A Sourcebook to the U.S. Art World.  1997-1998.

Brody, J.J.  Indian Painters and White Patrons.  Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.  1971.
Pueblo Indian Painting:  Tradition and Modernism in New Mexico, 1900-1930.  Santa Fe, New Mexico: School of American Research Press.  1997.

Melton Howard, E.  Melton Art Reference Library.  Oklahoma City:  Howard Eugene Melton.  1993

Silberman, Arthur.  One Hundred Years of Native American Painting.  Austin, Texas: The Oklahoma Museum of Art, Oklahoma City.  1978.

Tanner, Clara Lee.  Southwest Indian Painting:  A Changing Art.  [1957] Tuscon: The University of Arizona Press.  1973.

Telephone conversations with galleries in Santa Fe.

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