Hopi Eagle Dancer

1995

Object

Artist

Dan Namingha, United States

Country

  • United States

Object Info

This object may or may not be on view currently.

Dan Namingha, United States

1995

Height: 36 in. Width: 36 in.

Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of Virginia Vogel Mattern, 2003.1296

Photograph © Denver Art Museum 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Medium

  • acrylic paint

About

About the Artist

Dan Namingha is a member of the Hopi tribe and was born in Arizona on the Hopi Reservation in 1950. He was raised by his grandparents while his mother worked as a nurse off the Reservation. Namingha comes from a long line of artists and his family encouraged his experiences with art from a young age. His mother, Dextra, is now a full-time potter and his great-great-grandmother, Nampeyo, was a famous Hopi potter. Though he credits his mother and grandmother for his artistic lineage, he also distinguishes himself as an artist. “I am an extension of them. I am also an experimenter. I am constantly seeking and finding new avenues of expression, but always remaining within the themes I’ve been working with: architecture, landscape, and spiritual imagery.”

Namingha received formal art training from the University of Kansas, the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He now lives in Santa Fe where he and his family operate Niman Fine Art Gallery.

What Inspired It

As a child, Namingha often attended Hopi ceremonies with his grandfather, Emerson Namingha. He says that the kachina [kuh-CHEE-nuh] ceremonies left the most lasting impression on him. He attended his first kachina ceremony with his grandfather when he was seven or eight years old:

"I was mesmerized by the appearance of the kachina dancers and their chanting as they moved. My grandfather explained to me that they came from the mountains west of Hopi known as the San Francisco Peaks. They were spirit messengers representing goodness, clouds for moisture, and a blessing for the people. He told me there are more than one hundred different kinds of kachinas, each representing something important in our lives, such as rain, snow, plant life, and animals."

In this painting, Namingha represents the movement, color, and energy of an eagle kachina dancer.

As an artist, Namingha blends contemporary art practices with his Hopi heritage through energetic brushstrokes and bright colors. While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he reached an important realization with regards to his artwork: “My time in the Corps gave me precious opportunity to think. I spent hours analyzing what my art should become, and one day it just came to me. Suddenly, I knew that my artistic mission was to transform the subject matter of Native American art and its customary realism into an abstract, almost minimal, form.”

Eagle Kachina
Eagle Kachina

The eagle represents strength and is an important part of the Hopi spiritual world. The Eagle Kachina acts as an intermediary between the physical world and the spirit world. Namingha’s eagle kachina stretches beyond the boundaries of the canvas—the feathers of the headdress are cut off at the top and the wings extend beyond the right and left sides.

Feathers
Feathers

Eagle feathers are used for healing purposes, prayer offerings, and in ceremonial dances.

Abstraction
Abstraction

Namingha simplifies the form of the eagle kachina with his broad, quick brushstrokes. He gives the idea of the figure without using clear forms or outlines.

Movement
Movement

Namingha combined brilliant colors and quick brushstrokes to suggest the movement, energy, and strength of the Eagle Kachina dance.

Texture
Texture

Notice the areas where it appears that Namingha has used different tools to move the paint around the canvas. He rakes plaster trowels over wet paint to create different textures.

Teaching Resources

This video shows a traditional eagle dance as performed by the Hopi people.

Funding for object education resources provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.

The images on this page are intended for classroom use only and may not be reproduced for other reasons without the permission of the Denver Art Museum. This object may not currently be on display at the museum.