Scenes and portraits made on the Hopi Reservation. Some may have been used as the basis of Kopta's sculpture. Titles taken from wooden lantern slide boxes.
Arrangement: original order.
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Emory Kopta was born in Austria in 1884. He grew up in Czechoslovakia where he was educated by a private tutor; later he attended school in Cologne, German. At 16 he moved with his family to the United States and settled in San Francisco. When his father bought a ranch in Sacramento Valley, Kopta worked with him until he fell from a horse and lost one of his legs, which was replaced with an artificial limb. Returning to San Francisco he enrolled in a fashionable Knob Hill art school. The school was completely destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, so Kopta went to Paris to study sculpture. After five years he returned to the States and opened a studio in Los Angeles. In 1912 Kopta, along with two other artists, Lon Megargee and William R. Leigh visited Don Lorenzo Hubbell at his trading post at Ganado on the Navajo Reservation. After sketching the Navajo for some weeks the three artists decided to make a trip to the Hopi villages to see their ceremonials. At the trading post in Polacca, which lies at the foot of First Mesa, they met the owner Tom Pavatea. Kopta and Pavatea soon developed a close friendship which was to last the remainder of their lives. The three artists rented a Hopi house and explored the villages on top of the Hopi Mesas. He returned to Los Angeles long enough to wrap up his affairs and returned to the Hoi country where he lived in a corner room of the Pavatea house for the next twelve years. Kopta immersed himself in the life of the reservation often lending a hand at the trading post. His relationship with the Pavateas was so mutually rewarding that they adopted him as their son. Throughout his career Kopta worked in terra cotta. At the time Kopta was living in Polacca, Nampeyo, the most renown of the Hopi potters, was at the height of her career. Nampeyo befriended Kopta, making her deposits of clay available to him and teaching him how to prepare the clay. There are two images of Nampeyo in this collection, one is a portrait and the other shows her working on one of her pieces. On a trip to Phoenix in 1922 to have a piece of sculpture cast, Kopta met Ann Phelps, who had been teaching at the Indian School for 18 years. A year later the two were married in Flagstaff.
Finding aid prepared by Richard Pearce-Moses, April 1994, available in the Library and on the Internet at
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