Michael Kabotie dies at 67; Hopi artist and jeweler taught at Idyllwild

Michael Kabotie, a Hopi artist and jeweler who was an innovator in the Native American fine arts movement, died Oct. 23 at a Flagstaff, Ariz., hospital from complications related to the H1N1 influenza, Phoenix’s Heard Museum announced. He was 67.

By creating colorful paintings reflecting traditional Hopi life in contemporary media, Kabotie broke new ground, according to the museum, which often exhibited his work.

“He made powerful images drawn from Hopi artistic traditions that are testimonies to his own creative excellence,” museum director Frank Goodyear Jr. said in a statement.


As a silversmith, Kabotie taught Hopi overlay techniques in Southern California at the Idyllwild Arts summer program since 1983 and was considered a key member of the school’s Native American arts faculty.

In a statement, Idyllwild President William Lowman called Kabotie “an extraordinary artist of the Hopi tradition, but also an extraordinary artist in any culture.”

The artist’s father, Fred Kabotie, also was a prominent Hopi artist and jeweler who helped develop overlay methods commonly seen on tribe jewelry, according to Michael Kabotie’s website.

Born Sept. 3, 1942, on the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona, Kabotie lived there until the reservation high school closed.

After his junior year at Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kan., he spent the summer with the Southwest Indian Art Project at the University of Arizona. Later, he said the experience “planted a seed” that blossomed “in different ways.”

At the University of Arizona, he studied engineering but left to pursue art and launched his career in 1966 with a one-man show at the Heard Museum.

In 1973, he helped found Artist Hopid, a group of painters who experimented for several years with fresh interpretations of traditional Hopi art.

Kabotie lectured in the U.S., New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland, and his paintings and jewelry are in museums around the world.

Of his bold canvases, the quiet artist once said: “My paintings speak a lot louder than me.”

Kabotie is survived by his partner, Ruth Ann Border; a sister; six children; 14 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.