Cecil Calnimptewa, Jr. (b. 1950)

Cecil Calnimptewa, Jr.

(b. 1950)

Residence: Tuba City, Arizona

Cecil Calnimptewa is a katsina carver who gives freely of his knowledge, skill and time to anyone who respects these fine qualities in him.  A master teacher who for some years has guided his relatives, extended family, friends and those interested in learning the skills and techniques necessary for the genre.  This includes the use of power tools, the X-Acto knife, stains and oil paints and disseminating his style of realism in body structure and action. However, every one of his disciples is also provided the necessary tools to extrapolate from these basics in order to develop his or her particular style.  Cecil’s, on the other hand, remains uniquely his own and any keen observer can recognize his dolls immediately. His carving style is particularly expressive.

Cecil’s technique has changed considerably over the years.  Until 1975, he used the traditionally applied white wash under acrylic paints.  However, when Bruce McGee, third generation Indian art trader and currently VP of Heard Museum Retail Sales, encouraged him to carve the feathers on Kwaakatsina (Eagle) katsina in lieu of real feathers, Cecil switched to a wood preserver under the acrylic paints.  On other dolls, except for his Kwaakatsina dolls, Cecil continued the use of applying feathers of non-endangered bird species, yarns, cloth and small metal balls until 1980.  Then, again encouraged by Bruce McGee, he began carving the feathers, clothing and other paraphernalia directly into the wood.  He soon mastered this challenge and went on to create very realistic representations of katsinam. He also went from using preserver to a true stain under the paints but found that water-based acrylics do not adhere well to an oil-based stain.  In 1982 he solved the problem by switching to oil paints.  This method with its extended drying period hindered the process.  Alkyd, an oil paint, came on the market in 1983 and was welcomed by Cecil and many other carvers.  In 1987, Dennis Tewa (d. 2013), his cousin and carver, made Cecil aware of yet another German made oil paint that could be diluted with water, was easier to apply, dried faster and adhered well to the oil-based stain underneath.

A few years following, Cecil experimented with a dremel tool that had the potential to speed up the process considerably.  The dremel tool had found its way into kachina-doll carving before 1982, but it was used only to make fine lines on bird feathers.  Cecil extended its use into a greater variety of applications and now surpasses any other carver in handling it.

Cecil is a master in the surface treatment of wood, creating a multitude of different textures that give realistic appearance and feel.  All of his katsinam are exquisitely and expertly sculpted.  He has received numerous honors, awards and recognition throughout his career and his masterworks can be found in museums and institutions worldwide and in private collections alike.

Unable to carve for an extended period of time, Cecil utilized and explored the depths of his culture and practices, and embarked upon a series of colored-pencil drawn images documenting as many of the over 400 katsinam that are recognized by the Hopi.

Cecil Calnimptewa, Jr.