Heard Museum to showcase Helen Hardin artwork in new exhibit

 Helen Hardin

The Heard Museum will open a new exhibit which displays a complete body of work by one of the 20th Century’s most significant artists on Friday, Oct. 2.

“Spirit Lines: Helen Hardin Etchings” will feature all 23 first editions of the Santa Clara artist’s collection of copper plate etchings completed by the artist from 1980 to 1984.

This is the first time this body of work has been assembled and shown in its entirety.

Helen Hardin (1943 – 1984) was the daughter of artist Pablita Velarde (1918 – 2006) from the Santa Clara Pueblo near Albuquerque, N.M. Shortly after birth Hardin was given the name Tsa-Sah-Wee-Eh, meaning Little Standing Spruce, in the Tewa language.

As Helen’s father was Anglo, she was unable to participate in Pueblo ceremonies.

Unlike her mother, who painted scenes of traditional Pueblo life, Hardin chose to interpret images of ancient pottery and rock art designs into contemporary, abstracted, highly individualized compositions.

With the use of repeated geometric forms and layering techniques, viewers obtain a sense of introspect into a woman artist whose work is divided between traditional and modern worlds. Through her groundbreaking career, Hardin created avenues for other Native women to break from traditionalism.

The exhibit includes three etchings portraying women that have become known as her “Woman Series.” “Changing Woman,” “Medicine Woman” and “Listening Woman” suggest an autobiography of the last three years of Hardin’s life.

Hardin spoke of the series with Jay Scott, author of “Changing Woman: The Life and Art of Helen Hardin” (1989). Hardin was completing “Medicine Woman” when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said, “It was almost as if I needed that person, that healing spirit.”

In the spring of 1984 Hardin stated, “’Listening Woman’ is the woman I am only becoming now. She’s the speaker, she’s the person who’s more objective, the listener and the compassionate person.”

Starting at a young age, Hardin won many awards and exhibited her work at various galleries and markets including the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonials, New Mexico State Fair Indian Village, Santa Fe Indian Market, Western Artists Show in New Jersey and solo shows including one in Bogota, Colombia in 1968.

In 1970 she was featured on the cover of New Mexico Magazine and in a segment on American Indian artists produced by Public Broadcasting Service in 1976. Until her death in 1984 at age 41, Hardin continued to produce and sell her work across the nation as well as her home state of New Mexico. Her work can be found in private and museum collections across the nation.

The exhibition illustrates the variety of techniques used in the copper plate etching process. Etching, practiced by artists since the early 15th century, has evolved to the present day as an important form of artistic expression. The exact processes and precise techniques of copper plate etching were fitting for the labor-intensive, detailed compositions created by Helen Hardin.

The exhibit is on display through Sunday, March 6, 2016.

This exhibit is just the first of three installations that honor the exceptional family of women artists that was Pablita Velarde, her daughter Helen Hardin and Helen’s daughter, Margarete Bagshaw (1964 – 2015).

Heard Museum – American Indian Art and History is located at 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

Exhibit, event and program funding are provided in part by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Arizona Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.

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