Charles Loloma

Part of the Totems to Turquoise exhibition.

Perhaps the most famous Native American jewelry artist of his day, Charles Loloma (1921–1991) bridged two worlds. Breaking free of the stereotyped role of the Indian craftsman, he achieved worldwide fame, counting presidents, monarchs, and celebrities as clients. Yet between trips to Europe, Japan, and Egypt, he lived and worked at Hopi Third Mesa, serving in the Hopi Snake Society and excelling as a ceremonial clown. He explained, "In order to create a unique presentation one must work from his background. This is the primary reason I live up here at Hopi—to be involved with the ceremonial happenings that are our background."

In form and materials, Loloma's work was a major departure from tradition. Like Kenneth Begay, his early jewelry was rejected from competitions as not "Indian" enough. But in freely exploring nontraditional styles, Loloma proved that Native artists could express deeply held beliefs that were no less authentic for their innovative form of expression.

Miniature Landscapes

Raised or "chunky" inlay is a distinctive Loloma design element. These vertical slabs echo the angular mesas of the Southwestern landscape and the stepped patterns of Pueblo architecture.

Look Closely

Loloma's name means "many beautiful colors," and using nontraditional materials such as rosewood indeed gave him a rich palette. His angular patterns, while typical of the Southwest, also echo other artistic influences, including the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.