Heard Museum: From David Hockney to the American Indian

David Hockney Yosemite iPad Drawings
A visit to the Heard Museum is a must when you are in Phoenix, especially for those wanting to learn about Native Indian arts and its history. The museum houses the most extensive collection of American Indian objects in a privately-owned collection. My visit included seeing the David Hockney Yosemite, which included Masters of California Basketry.

Heard Museum History

The history of the museum takes one back to 1895 when Dwight and Maie Heard moved to Phoenix. They were the pioneers that helped expand and develop Phoenix into a significant Arizona city. In 1903 the Heard’s built their home on a portion of the property that later included the museum. The house has since been destroyed, and the land sold. The Heard’s began construction of the Spanish Colonial styled museum in 1928, and it officially opened in 1929. At the time, it housed their extensive collection of American Indian artifacts. Since that time, several additions to the museum occurred with the latest renovation in 2011. The museum now sits on 8 acres and has over 45,000 pieces.

Heard Museum
Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona

Once inside the Heard Museum grounds, you enter into a parklike setting that takes you away from the bustle of central Phoenix. Two amphitheaters surrounded the entry. As I strolled through the courtyard, I found a lovely patio with outdoor dining, a bookshop, and a gift shop. Don’t miss the gift shop. There are some uniquely beautiful items, including pottery and jewelry worth viewing.

While visiting the Heard Museum, make sure you take time to enjoy lunch at the museum café.

Dreamcatcher Salad Courtyard Cafe Heard Museum
Dreamcatcher Salad at the Courtyard Cafe in the Heard Museum.

Heard Museum: Native American Indian

Before viewing the David Hockney show, I specifically came to see; I ventured through the museum to see many of the exhibits, including Home: Native People in the Southwest and the sculpture garden. One of my favorite pieces in the Home exhibit was “Indigenous Evolution” by Tony Jojola, Isleta, and Rosemary Lonewolf. The artwork represents an art fence that is reminiscent of the Saguaro cactus, which is native to the Sonora desert.

I found the most profound exhibit because of the sobering effects it had on both to us as a nation and the Native Americans that were taken from their families and forced to endure the injustices placed upon them. This exhibit, Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories, examines a time I never knew existed. It began in the 1870s when the US government wanted to civilize the American Indians by taken children away from their parents and sending them to boarding schools where they were stripped of their identity and also converted to Christianity.

California Basket Weaving Heard Museum
California Basket Weaving Exhibit at the Heard Museum.

David Hockney Exhibit

One might wonder why David Hockney, a modern California artist at the Heard Museum, but the museum organizes an exhibit yearly creating an intersection on a broader scope that focuses on the artist and broader themes. Last year featured a Matisse exhibit from the cultural aspect of native masks.

The Hockney show combines his interpretation of Yosemite landscapes with California basket weaving, which includes artist creations made by Native Americans in the Yosemite region. Yosemite is the backdrop and inspiration for many artists utilizing different art materials, both natural and technological. For Hockney, it was the natural landmark that he experimented with modern-day tools, the iPad to conceive his artist renderings. For several basket weaving artists, the elements, plant materials around Yosemite to create their artistic version of the basket.

David Hockney Yosemite 2011
David Hockney Yosemite 2011

David Hockney’s painting seems bold but are very expressive in a simplistic way, which juxtaposes the distinctly detailed, earthy qualities of the baskets. Looking at Hockney’s work, I felt immersed in Yosemite. I could feel myself hiking and visiting the sites as I did about ten years ago. What also attracted me was the pastel-like quality, created from the iPad drawing. The more significant artworks were printed on four sheets of paper mounted on four sheets of Dibond.

The Hockney exhibit continues at the Heard Museum through April 5, 2020. I recommend seeing the exhibition before it leaves because it is not your typical Hockney exhibit or style of work and shows the diversification of the artist to adapt to new materials and techniques.

David Hockney Yosemite Suite Drawing
David Hockney Yosemite Suite Drawing

For more information:

Heard Museum
2301 North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Museum Hours:
Monday – Saturday 9:30 am – 5 pm
Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
First Friday of each month(except March) 6 pm – 10 pm

Note: Common to the travel industry, this writer was hosted on the museum visit. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.