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Connections Across Generations:
The Avery Collection of American Indian Paintings


"Over forty years ago, the purchase of a single painting grew into what is now The Avery Collection. A very gratifying and unexpected side effect of collecting has been people-those interesting, knowledgeable, charming, friendly, colorful, fun people!"

Marjorie Pierce Avery
December 1999

Flight of the Dragonflies by David Dawangyumptewa

Flight of the Dragonflies
by David Dawangyumptewa

In 1960 Mrs. Avery, an Arizona native now living in Texas, purchased a painting by Navajo artist Beatien Yazz. She became hooked. By 1999 her world-class collection of original works by American Indian artists grew to over 500 paintings. That year she decided to share a significant part of her collection with the people of Arizona and the public at large. She also wanted to share stories about her collecting methods of the last forty years and the relationships or connections she built with the artists, whose strength of character and talents she greatly admired.

The Collection

The paintings bracket the period 1935 to 1990, a time that brought many changes to reservation and rural economies. Tourism dating from the completion of a transcontinental railway system, was enhanced by interstate highways and improved infrastructure that brought customers looking for art and craft produced by the "first American" to rural and reservation communities. At the same time, expositions like the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial and Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico and the American Indian Exposition in Anadarko, Oklahoma provided important venues for artists and buyers to meet and make connections and friendships. Museums, commercial galleries and international expositions were also instrumental in bringing American Indian art into public view. These and other venues provided a marketplace for collectors and patrons like Mrs. Avery.

Eagle Dancers by Pablita Velarde

Eagle Dancers
by Pablita Velarde

Southwestern American Indian artists are well represented in the collection along with some excellent representative paintings from Oklahoma and Minnesota artists. Among the artists are: Helen Hardin (Santa Clara Pueblo), Raymond Naha (Hopi), Fred Beaver (Creek), Harrison Begay (Navajo), Michael Chiago (Tohono O'odham), Woody Crumbo (Potawatomi), Carl Gorman (Navajo), R.C. Gorman (Navajo), Valjean Hessing (Choctaw), Raphael Medina (Zia), Al Momaday (Kiowa), Gernonima Montoya (San Juan Pueblo), Beatien Yazz (Navajo), Tony Da (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Patrick Desjarlait (Ojibwa), David Dawangyumptewa (Hopi) and Shonto Begay (Navajo).

Navajo Power Plant by Shonto Begay

Navajo Power Plant
by Shonto Begay

The Exhibition

The Arizona State Museum is pleased to be the new home to 355 paintings from the Avery collection. An exhibition to showcase the paintings, honor the Avery family gift, and honor the artists was open to the public from October 5, 2002 through May 23, 2003.

Melanie Yazzie, Assistant Professor, UA Department of Art and Hartman H. Lomawaima, ASM Associate Director, were co-curators of the exhibition. Together, they have many professional and personal connections to a number of the artists. Before coming to the University of Arizona, Yazzie was an instructor in printmaking at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe. During her tenure at the Institute, she taught the sons, daughters, and even grandchildren of artists featured in the Avery collection. As a youth, Lomawaima participated in expositions and markets along with artists whose works form the Avery collection. According to the co-curators, "Working with this collection has resembled a family reunion and we wish to extend this circle of kinship to our audiences."

Visit the Gallery of Highlights to view a selection of works from the collection online.
Read Poetry by fifth-grade and eighth-grade students inspired by the collection.
Access the Avery Collection Database to browse or search the entire collection.