The Kachina are considered to be spiritual beings. The members of the Kachina Societies dress themselves to resemble these beings. The clothing and mask designs have been handed down for centuries. They then dance in a prescribed and ancient manner to bring blessings to the villages,
The dolls that are carved depicting these dancers are an integral part of the religion. Initiated boys learn to carve to preserve the traditions and heritage.
The Kachina dolls gained wide attention as a collectible beginning in 1903 when paintings of the dancers were published in the 21st annual Report for the Bureau of American Ethnology. John Wesley Powell, the pioneer of the Grand Canyon, was the director at the time. The paintings were commissioned by Jesse Walter Fewkes, a zoologist and anthropologist who first visited the Zuni and Hopi Villages in 1890 and 1891.
He became enthralled with the Ceremonies and Dances and ended up hiring four Hopi men to create paintings of the Katsinas. While the names of three of the painters are certain, the fourth is known only through a reference to him in notes made by Fewkes. Unfortunately, he did not attribute the individual watercolors to the painters who created them.
The paintings were published in the report and, with the public interest in archeology at that time, it spawned an interest in collecting the Katsina dolls. Some argue that these paintings also marked the start of the modern era of Pueblo painting.
Fewkes’ scientific methods are considered questionable by some, but his contribution to the recognition of the Hopi and Zuni Kachina cultures cannot be questioned.
In addition to our exhibit of Hopi and Zuni Kachina dolls for this year's Fall Gallery Walk, we will also be displaying for sale a selection of the drawings that Fewkes commissioned.
Now, how did these drawings that are from a very rare book published in 1903 end up at the gallery? I want to promise you that we had no part in removing the pages from the book. I cringe at the thought!
A good friend and longtime dealer from
California, Jack Barry, purchased the prints already removed. While we both
decry the fact that someone took the book apart, the damage is done, and the
prints are absolutely beautiful.