Talk about a Renaissance man. Al Qoyawayma is a ceramic artist, potter, and bronze sculptor. He's also a thinker of great thoughts, a Fulbright Scholar, a co-founder of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, a featured artist at the Smithsonian’s permanent Archives of American Art as well as a physicist, astronomer, anthropologist, engineer, and educator.
Constantly setting new goals and quickly achieving them, this septuagenerian Hopi dynamo hasn’t decided yet what he wants to be when he grows up. What he is now is an exceptionally good potter and sculptor who notes, “I am privileged to be present during the creative process, watching as unseen hands and the gift of the Creator’s energy flows into my work.”
What sort of statement does your work make?
My clay gives me an artist’s life. The spirit of my work reflects the hues, shadows, and forms of the high desert. The life of my work has its roots in a timeless culture, the mystery of our origins, and the links to Mesoamerica and beyond. My clay creations deal with the origins, migrations, and cultures of native peoples, particularly my Hopi roots (Coyote clan of the Sikyatki people) and the aesthetic influences of Southwestern values passed down through my family. My thought processes revolve around the question: If our clan traditions had not been influenced by European contact, where would they be today?
How would you describe your work?
Form, textures, contrasts, shadow, softness of desert color hues — these are foremost in my creation themes of who we were and are. I have three different styles (sculptural, architectural, and cyromatic) and tend to mix the three or cross back and forth between them to create new presentations. I’m not restricted by a particular tradition, but am free to innovate and my technique provides a contemporary style of ceramics that strives to focus on human and spiritual things just beyond my reach. Creativity will always be my challenge.
What is polychrome pottery and why is it different?
Polychrome pottery is created when three or more mineral color slips are used to decorate a hand-built ceramic. Individual or whole sections are painted in a gradient of color, like a feather design that may vary from a dark brown into a red-brown to red, then red-orange, to orange, then yellow-orange before becoming yellow or perhaps even light green. This gives a sort of rainbow effect and I am not aware that this has ever been done in Pueblo pottery.
What's ahead for you?
I’m a 76-year-old man who feels like I’m 20, and that’s fortunate because it allows me to think in a fresh way. There are a couple of directions I might head in because there’s always more to do that represents uniqueness. It would be nice to come up with a new genre based on past masters like Rodin and Allan Houser for instance, something I’d call contemporary-abstract-sculptural art where all the elements come together correctly and are reflective of forms and icons of the past.