The work of Michael Kabotie (to borrow some words from Walt Whitman) "contains multitudes." His canvases are vibrant with color and usually portray images from the ceremonies and culture of the Hopis. His paintings often depict kachinas, rain spirits, and priests, and encompass corn, petroglyphs, and migration symbols, like spirals and hand- and footprints.
But while Kabotie seems to depict these traditional subjects with modernistic styles and techniques, his work should not be seen as a simple cultural grafting, resulting in "Hopi cubism." Rather, Kabotie seeks a synthesis, a wholeness, a new level of integration. His work from the late 1960s into the mid-1970s certainly shows stylistic affinities with Picasso, Braque, and Leger in pieces like Kachina Faces ( 1968), Hopi Lovers I ( 1973), and Ceremonial Priest ( 1974), but the subject matter is decidedly Hopi. As Patricia Broder has noted: "The techniques and conventions of Cubism have great appeal to modern Hopi artists." She further notes that because no one individual Hopi has complete understanding of the total culture, cubist art can reflect this limitation. Cubist forms can also show conflicts and clashes through the use of visual elements. 1
However that may be, the so-called cubist forms as used by Ka