Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Linda Lomahaftewa

 By Jennifer C. Vigil


Stickball Player, 2008 Collage on Canvas (18 x 36 inches) Courtesy of the artist

Hopi/ Choctaw artist and educator Linda Lomahaftewa was born July 3, 1947 in Phoenix, Arizona. While she spent her childhood in Phoenix and Los Angeles (she attended the Phoenix Indian School as a boarding student), Lomahaftewa’s family frequently visited her father’s relatives on Hopi second mesa. This connection to her Hopi heritage permeates Lomahaftewa’s abstract paintings and her approach to the arts. She credits her father with teaching her about the interrelatedness of the arts, encouraging her to sing and pray, “…because that’s what makes your work good.”[1]

Lomahaftewa attended the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) for its high school program, studying with Lloyd Kiva New and Fritz Scholder. She received her B.F.A. in 1970 and her M.F.A. in 1971 from the San Francisco Art Institute.  Lomahaftewa was an Assistant Professor of Native American art at California State College, Sonoma, California (1971-1974) and at the University of California, Berkeley (1974-1976). She returned to IAIA in 1976 as a professor of painting and drawing, a post she has held for over three decades.

In early works, such as the acrylic on canvas New Mexico Sunset (1978), Lomahaftewa uses bold colorful geometric shapes to capture the beauty and feeling of a southwestern sunset. The composition can be seen as homage to women’s crafts such as beadwork, quilting, and appliqué, but it is executed in a traditionally male medium—painting. As she has noted, “Usually the men do the paintings of kachinas and the kiva murals.  Women didn’t generally paint.”[2]

Lomahaftewa draws upon petroglyphs near her home in Santa Fe and kiva mural paintings on Hopi ruins at Awatovi in Arizona as sources for her imagery. The abstract images she utilizes may seem easily accessible but they require cultural knowledge to fully appreciate their meanings: “[W]hen I explain to people what those murals are, then I’m talking about my background, I’m talking about Hopi, and even where the murals come from, how they came to be, and how this particular village was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt, that kind of thing…because my paintings contain the history of my people.  I still work within the Hopi culture but I put my own angle on it.”[3]


Choctaw design, 2008 Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 inches, Courtesy of the artist

In the 1980s she began to turn to printmaking because of the immediacy of monotypes.  Prayers From Marvin (1988), incorporates her interpretation of rain, clouds and lightning imagery found on pottery and kiva murals. The water images she incorporates into her work reference prayer for rain to water crops and also her membership in the Water Clan.[4] Works like Prayers From Marvin simultaneously express personal and communal identity.





[1] Larry Abbott, I Stand in the Center of the Good (Norman: University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 151.

[2] Ibid., 157.

[3] Ibid., 155.

[4] Ibid., 157.


Additional Resources compiled by Students in the Contemporary Native American Art History course at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Spring 2013

Web-based Resources


“Linda Lomahaftewa.” Wikipedia. 2013.

Wikipedia provides the artist’s background, list of accomplishments and degrees, including her artwork and exhibition.

Indyke, Dottie. “Native Arts: Linda Lomahaftewa.” Southwest Art. 2003.

An online article and interview with the artist by Southwest Art Magazine, she talks about her background as a child growing up and talks about information on what inspires her to be an artist today.

“Linda Lomahaftewa: Contemporary Native Art to Russia” Native Art in Russia. 2011.

This website shows her accomplishments, degrees, her bio and several photographs of her artwork.

Selected Bibliography


Sonneborn, Liz. A to Z of American Indian Women. New York: Facts On File, 2007. 96-97.  

A book written by Liz Sonneborn describes about the artist’s Biography and gives an insight on her artwork and motivation behind it.