Life & Times
Tony Price - Atomic Art
essay by James Rutherford

      In America, Alfred Steiglitz recognized Native Americans ‘as the native New World exotic’ (Levin16) as early as 1903 and many artists, writers, and patrons in his circle eventually focused for a time on the American Indian. Among them were Man Ray, Arthur Dove, John Marin, Paul Rosenfeld, William Carlos Williams, and Mabel Dodge. Native American imagery began to appear in Marsden Hartley’s work around 1912 at the same time the early German Expressionists were also beginning to interpret this iconography. Among them was Emil Nolde, whose paintings and drawings of Hopi kachinas were first seen around 1911. Tony Price began incorporating kachina imagery into his own work after living for a time at Hopi in the late 1960’s and continued throughout his career. “The nuclear sculptures shaped into our American Indian Kachina masks – these spiritual energy images - plug into the vast amounts of native Indian energy lying stored up in the Americas for centuries” (Price17) A new generation of Native American artists is continuing today to incorporate kachina imagery in their work. Although their experiences with this iconography is perhaps more direct, like Price, their contemporary interpretations also seek to invoke the energy represented by these subjects. Since the true spirituality of a kachina cannot be seen by a non-native person, artists such as Dan Namingha (Hopi) and Tony Abeyta (Navajo) use modern materials and techniques to create new visual languages that are perhaps more accessible to the outsider.

Tony Abeyta, Diety

Emil Nolde, Hopi Kachina

Dan Namingha,
Hummingbird Kachina

Tony Price, Elec-Trick Kachina

Tony Price, Nuclear Kachina
c. 1990-92

Tony Price, Kachina Mask

Tony Price - Atomic Art
essay by James Rutherford