Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Heard Museum

The Heard Museum is in Phoenix, Arizona which was the last stop on our road tour.  The Heard, was founded in 1929 by Dwight and Maie Bartlett Heard, when Phoenix was a small town of under 50,000.  Today there is a population of over 1.4 million.  Their goal was to show the heritage of the indigenous people of the Americas but there is a very heavy emphasis on the Indians of the Southwest. Their collections are incredibly comprehensive for Native American Arts of this area.

The Heard itself is set in a series of low connecting buildings with archways and red tiled roofs.  It feels like a large hacienda, with the bookshop an excellent and large sales gallery for Native American objects, a restaurant and a cafĂ©.   Then, of course, in the much larger space, the main house, are the exhibition galleries that flow nicely one to another.

The introductory gallery by itself is worth a visit.  There is a well-spaced selection of masterpieces from different tribes emphasizing that these are living cultures by juxtaposing historic examples and major contemporary works.   There is a bowl by both Iris Nampeyo (ca. 1860–1942) and her daughter Fannie (1900-1987), the famous Hopi potters.

There are a vase and bowl shaped pots by Margaret Tafoya (1904-2001) and her mother Sara Fina Tafoya (1863-1949) a famous potting family from Santa Clara Pueblo.

A multi-figure ceramic by Santa Clara sculptor Roxanne Swentzell (b.1962) whose work is in the Denver Art Museum, The National Museum of the American Indian and many others, represents a family group. It is titled “Tse-ping” which translates as belly button. The artist writes, “In the Tewa world, the bellybutton is the center of the world. Each pueblo has a bellybutton…. in the middle of the plaza….. It is reminding us of where we come from, from the earth.  In Tse-ping the bowl is the center of the earth“.

Figures important to the Southwest are brought together in a painting by David Bradley, a Chippewa who specializes in interpretations and depicting real and fictitious characters.  Here is his painting with identifications of the characters.  How many do you recognize?  Don’t miss “The Ghost Riders in the Sky”.

We collect Hopi Katsina dolls  and the Heard has more than I have ever seen in one place partially because Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona bequeathed his large collection to them. That was an unexpected eye opener for me.  Here is just one wall of this display.

Silver is also well represented.  Almost every important Hopi, Navajo and Zuni  silversmith is included. There is so much to learn in this museum where the rich permanent collection is presented in such a visually appealing and accessible manner.

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