Iva Honyestewa (née Casuse; also Iva Lee Honyestewa; born 1964) is an American artist, craftswoman, social activist, and preserver of Hopi culture. A Native American, Honyestewa is best known for her traditional and innovative woven baskets and figures. Honyestewa's most important breakthrough was the development of the pootsaya basket, called "a rare innovation in Hopi basketry". She developed the pootsaya during her 2014 residency at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico, having been awarded the Eric and Barbara Dookin Artist Fellowship.
Honyestewa was born in Gallup, New Mexico to parents Richard Casuse (Navajo) and Shirley Casuse (née Mansfield; Sun Clan, Hopi). Honyestewa is Sun (Taawa) Clan from the village of Songoopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona, and her Hopi name is Honwynum (Female Bear Walking).
Honyestewa began in 1992 as a silversmith and jewelry maker and has received advanced training from her father Richard Casuse (Navajo), Leonard James Hawk (Yakama), Roy Talahaftewa (Hopi), and Charles Supplee (Hopi). She has worked with many techniques including Hopi overlay, lapidary, lost-wax casting, and tufa casting. She is included in the definitive guide to Native American jewelry makers by Dr. Gregory Schaaf of the Center for Indigenous Arts & Cultures.
Honyestewa is expert at traditional Hopi basket weaving, both the coiled basket (poota) and the sifter basket (tutsaya). She was taught to make her first coil basket by her grandmother Esther Honanie when she was ten years old. Honyestewa would not revisit basket weaving until 1996 when she began lessons with her first cousin, Beth Dawahongnewa. Over the next ten years, Honyestewa perfected her craft making baskets for ceremonial purposes and began to introduce what would become her signature innovations; her confidence grew, finally blossoming in 2006 as she began to enter art exhibitions and contests.
Honyestewa makes traditional Hopi baskets using traditional materials such as yucca, willow, and three leaf sumac. Use of traditional materials limits the color palette of a Hopi basket to white, green, yellow, black, and red. She also incorporates contemporary dyes. She uses geometric, pictographic, and figurative designs, including the incorporation of three dimensional elements such as a domed turtle shell central to the basket design, serving pieces such as a ladle, sandals, and pedestals.
Honyestewa also has juxtaposed the ancient traditional basket techniques with pop culture subject matter, for example creating a Denver Broncos (her favorite football team) sifter basket. She also creates grander conceptual pieces such as the project Where the Sun Fits In, an exploration of the migration story incorporating six Hopi clans (lizard, water, tobacco, badger, fire, and sun) and their symbols.
Honyestewa developed a combination of the sifter and the coiled basket, which she calls the pootsaya, during her 2014 residency at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico; a project she had been considering for years. For Hopi, there is great meaning in design, so Honyestewa did not take this project lightly. To build on tradition and create something new, she needed a transcendent purpose. For Honyestewa weaving is a spiritual and community activity and the pootsaya is a reflection of her deep affection for her community and culture.
Our communities, our lives have become so corrupted with alcohol, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and even the politics. When creating this basket the purpose was woven into this unique basket. The coil portion is woven tight...[as] a tight foundation for the community. The yucca strands as they are tied onto the coil represent bringing our people back together so we can become one again and make a better community for our future children. Not only for the Hopi community but for all communities throughout the world. That is the purpose behind the pootsaya.
Honyestewa has been exploring the use of traditional Hopi symbolism and subject matter—for example, a spider and its web, or a whirlwind, by placing a specific image in the plaque-like center coil of the pootsaya surrounded by a sifter section that reflects and enhances the central subject.
Of Honyestewa's innovation, Andrew Higgins, Registrar of the Arizona State Museum, wrote: "[Honyestewa] create[d] a truly unique piece of artwork. The whole process of gathering, preparing and weaving is very long tedious process. I have such tremendous respect for artists that go that extra mile to create something so remarkable." Diane Dittemore, Curator of the Arizona State Museum considered the pootsaya "a rare innovation in Hopi basketry".
Shows, collections, and awards
Among her many exhibits and shows, Honyestewa has participated in the three major juried and invitational Native American art and craft exhibitions: the Prescott Indian Art Market, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, and the Santa Fe Indian Market.
Honyestewa has also won many awards, including: the Wilma Kaemlein Memorial Acquisition Award at the Southwest Indian Art Fair in 2015; Best of Division, First, and Second Place awards at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art exhibition in 2015 and 2016; Best of Category Sifter Baskets, First Place, and Second Place awards Gallup Indian Intertribal Celebration in Gallup, New Mexico in August 2011; 1st, 2nd and Honorable Mention at the Hopi Tuhisma Show in Kykotsmovi, AZ 2011–2014; 1st Place Butterfly Basket and 1st Place Geometric Design Division, Gallup Indian Intertribal Celebration in Gallup, NM in 2007; Honorable Mention in Basketry at the 2007 Museum of Northern Arizona Hopi Festival of Arts and Culture.
Honyestewa's pootsaya baskets are in the permanent collection of the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, AZ, and the School for Advanced Research Museum (Indian Art Research Center) in Santa Fe, NM.
Honyestewa was awarded the 2013 Artist-in-Residence award and fellowship at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana. She subsequently was awarded the 2014 Eric and Barbara Dookin Artist Residency Fellowship at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM.
Honyestewa is a subject of Sally Grotta's American Hands Project celebrating craftspeople through narrative portraiture and is on the cover of American Hands Journal volume 1. Honyestewa also frequently lectures on Hopi arts and weaving and provides demonstrations.
Social activism and community building
Honyestewa is also a social activist, community builder, and preserver of Hopi culture. She has worked with community-building programs which include youth services and education, substance abuse prevention, and nutrition and health. Culturally, she is focused on providing support for the arts, Hopi language, and traditional Hopi food. She is revising a Hopi cookbook for the Hopi Putavi Project in partnership with the Hopi Community Health Representative Office, the Hopi Special Diabetes Program, and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Hopi Office. She is an author of a peer reviewed article in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition entitled "Understanding Access to and Use of Traditional Foods by Hopi Women".
She is the owner of the Iskasokpu Gallery, Second Mesa, Arizona (Iskasokpu translates to "the spring where the coyote burped") which promotes Hopi artists and craftsmen. She also holds demonstrations and teaches traditional Hopi cooking recipes (and has done so across many venues including at the university level) and provides catering and private dinners.
She also has worked for the United States Department of Agriculture.
Honyestewa is married to stone and wood sculptor and kachina artist Edward Honyestewa who is Hopi Coyote (Ishawuu) Clan from the village of Hotevilla, AZ. She has four sons. Honyestewa attended Yavapai Community College and Northland Pioneer College. She is closely related to the very accomplished basket weaver, Adeline Lomayestewa, both teachers of Reba Ann Lomayestewa.
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