In this series, the artists working at Creative Gateways give us a behind-the-scenes insight into their current works in progress, inspiration, and creative challenges. Today, we cover the past experiences as well as the beginnings of Gerry Quotskuyva’s Cottonwood Root Project…
The Journey from Kachina Dolls
From the beginning, Gerry Quotskuyva was most well-known for his specific style of kachina dolls. These dolls are still supernatural beings though Gerry has personified these spirits in his carvings. To give the best representation of these beings, Gerry took a different route and combined the traditional styles with the contemporary, which offered more artistic freedom to their representation. These kachina dolls had the added effects of a detailed head dress and the proper clothing to go along. The poses of the dolls always included a base that narrows, visually representing the evaporative process of a kachina doll as a cloud being and symbolizing the becoming of that spiritual being. Another added design was having a distinguishable body form with-in the long robes to “symbolize the embodiment of the soul.” Lastly, in all of his carvings he leaves one side of the robe open to represent the “releasing of that spirit or heart with-in.” With this style, he adds his traditional meanings behind the kachina dolls with a contemporary level of design.
From there, Gerry continued to challenge tradition by progressing, evolving, and experimenting with what mediums would better convey his message in his artwork. Today, Gerry Quotskuyva works in many different mediums including bronze-casting, wood-carving, and mixed media painting. However, it is through wood-carving that Gerry has found another way of challenging his skills and bringing his style into future projects.
On to New Heights
Gerry Quotskuyva’s new project began with searching for the right wood to create his next carving. The piece, known specifically as Cottonwood Root, was found in the Verde River 14 years ago. Since then, Gerry has been patiently curing the wood, waiting for it to reach the right consistency of dryness, to begin his new piece. The challenge with having too wet of wood or drying out too quickly is that it splits while carving. Fully cured, this cottonwood root which is roughly 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide, will be used in his art piece whose theme is matriarchal cultures, specifically one that relates to his livelihood.
Looking Beyond the Wood
Gerry chose to focus this project on the matriarchal world because the majority of indigenous cultures are matriarchal societies where the women possess strength and power in the decision-making process. Even in today’s culture, there are many groups where the feminine divine still carries weight. As an example, in Gerry’s cultural upbringing, a child is first introduced to the kachina doll when given one representing the grandmother. Afterwards, the uncle would explain the physical and spiritual role the grandmother plays. From the grandmother they would then learn about the mother, and thereafter the father, continuously connecting the spiritual to the physical starting at an early age.
To further show this feminine divinity, Gerry’s goal is creating multiple female kachina dolls in flight on the smaller, individual roots (shown on the left). Though in certain areas he wants to carve sections away, Gerry will keep the full root as one whole piece instead of doing many smaller kachina dolls. In the larger areas of wood (visible to the right) he wants to have a cluster of 2-3 larger kachina dolls or faces, examples being the grandmother figure or corn maidens. These will either be full body or detailed faces of the kachina dolls.
With all the ideas that Gerry expresses, he also acknowledges that during the creative process, many of his ideas change. His goal for this piece is to have it done by December; he will be devoting the majority of his time working on this project during his Rollin and Mary Ella King Native Artist Fellowship hosted by the School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa FE. He admits it will be a good challenge working in a larger scale, but he has completed many larger pieces and knows what to expect in his work. He has big goals and high hopes for this piece and will continue expanding his ideas and style during this process.
What Happens Next
This is not the only new piece in store! Stay updated on how this project progresses and see more of his and the rest of our resident artist’s work by visiting Creative Gateways Open Studios and Gallery, open Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm.