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Obituary: Michael Kabotie

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Michael Kabotie, 67, artist, poet, lecturer and longtime instructor in the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, died from the H1N1 flu and associated complications on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2009, in Flagstaff, Ariz.

As a key member of the school’s renowned Native American Arts faculty for 26 years, Kabotie taught Hopi silversmithing from 1983 to 2009, and served as consultant to the Native American Arts Festival since its inception in 2001.

William Lowman, president of Idyllwild Arts (IA), commented, “Michael Kabotie was an extraordinary artist of the Hopi tradition, but also an extraordinary artist in any culture. We marveled at his jewelry design and craft. We were inspired by his paintings and prints. And we were moved by his poetry. Most of all, his alter ego as a trickster amused and confounded us all. He was a great artist.”

Heather Companiott, director of the Native American Arts Program at IA, added, “Michael was an extraordinary human being, full of humor, humility, talent, curiosity and compassion. To know or work with Michael was to be forced to think more broadly, to see and find connections between people, concepts and ideas, and to come to know the world — and yourself — a little differently and a little better than you had before. This is a loss not only for his friends, colleagues and students at Idyllwild Arts, but for the many people whose lives he touched across the country and around the world. He will be sorely missed.”

Kabotie was born Sept. 3, 1942, on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona. He grew up in the village of Shungopavi and attended school on the reservation and at the Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kan., where he graduated in 1961. While in his junior year in Kansas, he was invited to spend the summer at the Southwest Indian Art Project at the University of Arizona. Participants included Fritz Scholder, Helen Hardin, Charles Loloma and Joe Hererra.

After high school, Michael attended the University of Arizona, studying engineering. He had the privilege of holding a one-man show at the Heard Museum and his work was featured on the cover of Arizona Highways magazine.

In 1967, Michael underwent his Hopi manhood initiation into the Wuwutsim Society and was given his Hopi name, Lomawywesa (Walking in Harmony).

In 1973, Kabotie was a founding member of Artist Hopid, a group of painters experimenting in fresh interpretations of traditional Hopi art forms. This group of five artists worked together for more than five years. He also wrote a book of poetry, “Migration Tears,” published in 1987 by UCLA.

Kabotie lectured and gave presentations across America, and in New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland. His paintings and jewelry can be seen in museums around the world, from the Heard Museum in Phoenix to the British Museum of Mankind in London and the Gallery Calumet-Neuzzinger in Germany.

Both Michael and his father, Fred Kabotie (ISOMATA faculty 1976-78), were innovators in the Native American Fine Arts Movement, creating paintings that reflect traditional Hopi life in contemporary media. Michael created many public works of art including the murals at Sunset Crater and the Museum of Northern Arizona (with Delbridge Honanie), as well as a gate he designed in the style of his jewelry at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Kabotie was actively engaged in cross-cultural and cross-discipline projects and collaborations. These collaborations included extensive work on paintings with a Celtic artist. He also participated in archaeological and art historical research and conferences. He was a mentor and guide, making presentations and working with tribal AA groups around the country.

Michael Kabotie is survived by his older sister, Hattie Lomayesva; his children, Paul Kabotie, Wendell Sakiestewa, Claire Chavarria, Ed Kabotie, Meg Adakai and Max Kabotie; his partner, Ruth Ann Border; 14 grandchildren; one great-grandchild; his Hopi clan and blood relatives; and his many friends from all over the world.

A private burial took place on Oct. 24 at the village of Shungopavi, Ariz. On Oct. 25, a public celebration of his life was held in Flagstaff, Ariz.

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