visitors to the Denver Art Museum might have wondered about the
absence of much contemporary work in the third-floor Native American
the significant assembly of such eloquently crafted and culturally
powerful pieces as Northwest Coast woodcarving, Naskapi painted
leather garments, Winnebago twined weaving, Plains Indian beadwork,
Navajo weaving, Pueblo pottery and California basketry, modern Native
American artwork has been the collection's shortfall.
private collector recently bestowed 320 contemporary Native American
pieces on the Denver Art Museum - one of the most noteworthy contributions
to the American Indian collection in its six-decade history.
combination of our outstanding historic collection with these magnificent
contemporary works creates one of the most comprehensive collections
of any museum in this country," says Nancy Blomberg, curator
of the DAM's Native Arts department.
90 percent of the finest artists working over the last 10 years
are represented," she says.
collector behind the donation is Virginia Mattern of Stamford, Conn.
Her love affair with American Indian art blossomed during her periodic
trips to Santa Fe. The collector's hobby began with miniature pottery
but quickly grew to encompass larger works. Until recently, Mattern
stored her lot in her own temperature-controlled mini-museum.
the aficionado decided to donate her finds, she turned her attention
to the Denver Art Museum and its 19,000-plus-object American Indian
pieces from the donation, which arrived shortly before Christmas,
have been cataloged and incorporated into the museum's existing
Native Arts exhibit.
remaining pieces from the donation will join the mix after the museum's
expansion is completed and the department is relocated to another
floor in the existing West 14th Avenue Parkway building.
sampling already on display gives visitors a taste of the impressive
and vast works that Mattern assembled.
warm, vibrant acrylic painting by Dan Namingha of the Hopi Pueblo
is one of the first pieces from the donation that visitors spot
after stepping off the elevators. Called "Elements of Summer,"
the piece incorporates four butterfly mavens among a yellow- and-orange
background with dollops of color streaking through the image like
sunlight passing through a prism.
are important images in Hopi religious ceremonies," Blomberg
painting hangs behind the exhibit's Pueblo Platform, where a number
of the other new works are on display. An adobe-colored jar by Lonnie
Vigil of the Nambe Pueblo is shaped like a plateau rising from the
desert. It features a cloudlike effect around the shoulder, which
the artist created by employing a black-fire technique to dust the
blackware bowl by Nathan Youngblood of the Santa Clara Pueblo is
encircled in perfectly formed ribs and resembles a flat squash dipped
in gothic nail polish.
Native American symbols, including a trail of buffalo, bear claws
and crosses, appear on a pictorial jar by Susan Folwell, also from
the Santa Clara Pueblo. The artist enhances the texture behind her
images by using an X-Acto knife to chip away at the scene's horizon
- an excruciatingly delicate process in which she risks cracking
the pot with each tap.
Folwell's work stands a jar by Evelyn Cheromiah of the Laguna Pueblo.
A geometric black-and-white and square check pattern is painted
around the body of the piece.
symbols are elegantly etched into the deep salmon finish of a double-spouted
wedding jar by Richard Ebelacker of the Santa Clara Pueblo. And
San Felipe Pueblo artist Daryl Candelaria's jar, created by assembling
various shards of pottery, is reminiscent of a ceramic quilt with
various birds, dancers and figures reflected in each patch.
the Plains section of the exhibit, two standing dolls by Lakota
tribe member Rhonda Holy Bear are entrancing with their realistic
wood faces, braided human hair, beaded and painted dresses and moccasins,
and miniature silver drop belts that look just like the lifesize
versions displayed elsewhere in the collection.
artists represented in Mattern's DAM donation include Christine
McHorse, Robert Tenorio, Barbara and Joseph Cerno and Randy Nahohai.