Ramona Sakiestewa’s Nebula 22 & 23

Meet the Artists of Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists

An abstract tapestry of red, yellow, orange, green, and blue.

Ramona Sakiestewa (Hopi), Nebula 22 & 23 (diptych), 2009, tapestry, wool warp and dyed wool weft, Collection of Carl and Marilynn Thoma, 2009.021a-b. © 2009 Ramona L. Sakiestewa, courtesy of and photo by the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation

Artist’s Language

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English

Ramona Sakiestewa’s sophisticated use of tapestry weaving, an enduring tradition of her Hopi community, was inspired by images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The result is a vibrant, textured, and seamless expression that depicts bursts of light, energy, growth, and nature, which materializes through her long-standing practice of layering shapes and colors.

Audio

I’m Ramona Sakiestewa. I was born in Albuquerque at the Albuquerque Indian hospital when there was one. My family’s from northern Arizona—from Aribi all the way to Moenkopi. I have always loved tactile things. I got a sewing machine when I was four. And so I made doll clothes, and I made clothes for myself by the second grade. But I like touching, and I like fabrics, and I like the tactile experience. Went about teaching myself to weave. Then I worked my way up to American Southwest tapestry, which is distinctly different than European tapestry. It’s finished on both sides. And I did that for close to 30 years. And all along I did print-making, and painting, and other things. Mostly to get maquettes and drawings that I could use for weaving.

All my work has generally been about divination. I’m always interested in time and space and how certain things intersect and come together at a certain moment in time. Sort of abstractions of nature because that’s been very influential in my life. And I have lots of little scraps of things that I collect. Tear things out of magazines that I like. I save scraps of stuff. I have a lot of dead plants and insects in boxes that I look at. And then, I’m very interested in deep space. The cosmos and stars. Because that’s a scientific vocabulary that Indigenous people in the Americas have had. Our cultures are based in really deep science. So when the Hubble space telescope went out into deep space and they sent back these beautiful sort of multi-layered photographs of nebulae, I decided that’s what I wanted to do as kind of my final homage to weaving. And so the series, the Nebulae Series, was indeed that. So it was based entirely on my interpretation through watercolor of the Hubble space telescope.

It’s very important to me to layer color. It’s the kind of thing when you initially look at one of the weavings, you’ll go, “Oh, that’s pink.” But really, it’s three colors that are in every pick that goes across the weaving. You just don’t see it right away, but there’s a depth of color.

So in 2009, I decided to close my studio. I thought, I can’t do better weaving than this. And I want to do something else which is print-making and these kind of visual constructions. So, that’s my new foray into the world of art. Weaving had its moment. And then it had its end.

Ramona Sakiestewa, Hopi, born 1948
Nebula 22 & 23 (diptych), 2009