Charles Loloma: Man of Many Talents

Charles Loloma: Man of Many Talents

Hopi Kachina by Charles Loloma

Hopi Kachina by Charles Loloma (1985); gold, lapis, coral, Lone Mountain turquoise; constructed, inlaid; 1 1/4" x 3" 

"A farmer, storyteller, mime, musician, clown, poet, designer, and teacher." This is how curator James McGrath described Charles Loloma in the catalog for Loloma's solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in 1974.

Born in the Hopi village of Hotevilla in 1921 to parents who were respected craftspeople in the community, Loloma showed artistic talent at a young age. By the time he graduated high school, he was already an experienced painter, assisting famed artist Fred Kabotie in creating a number of murals for San Francisco's Golden Gate International Exposition (1939) and the Museum of Modern Art's historic exhibition "Indian Art of the United States" (1941). 

Loloma went on the attend the School for American Craftsmen at Alfred University in New York in 1947, where he developed a distinct style of pottery. In 1956, he and his wife Otellie opened the Loloma Ceramics Shop in Scottsdale. It was during this time that Loloma discovered his talent and passion for creating original tufa-cast (a Navajo technique) jewelry. By 1965, he had established a studio near Hotevilla, where he continued to design and fabricate his own bold interpretations of Hopi jewelry.

Loloma's process of combining iconography and materials popular with Native jewelers including silver, turquoise, and coral, with more unconventional resources such as gold, ivory, pearls, and native woods, won him both international praise and, at times, scorn from more traditionalist members of the Hopi community.

A true renaissance man, Loloma is considered one of the most influential Native American jewelers of the 20th century. While building his repertoire as an artist, he remained deeply devoted to the Hopi religion and culture in which he lived and worked. He served as a Hopi spiritual leader, member of the Badger Clan, and a Hopi snake priest, all the while still traveling the globe attending exhibition openings and jewelry competitions and designing works for the rich and famous. In 1976 he was inducted into the ACC's College of Fellows.

Although Loloma died in 1991 at the age of 69, the numerous works he created over his lifetime can be found today in many private collections, as well as the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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