Having emerged from the 1970s and 80s as a significant contemporary artist, Helen Hardin paved the way for other Native woman artists breaking out of Indian traditionalism. Hardin’s mother, Pablita Valarde, was famous in her own right, turning away from conventional female pottery making in her home pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico, and adopting painting as her medium, depicting scenes of puebloan life.
Hardin began painting at a young age, acquiring drafting skills in high school, and later becoming part of the University of Arizona Southwestern Indian Art Project, which led to the founding of the Institute of American Indian Arts. Further developing her distinctive style of painting in the 1970s, it was in the 1980s that Hardin began using copper plate etchings, honing her technique of precise linear and geometric designs.
This exhibit features twenty-three copper plate etchings spanning Hardin’s work from 1980-1984, uniquely translating her mixed ethnicities’ traditional symbology while using modern techniques and interpretation. Always intent on recalling her ancestral heritage, she signed her work in her Tewa name, Tsa-sah-wee-eh, meaning Little Standing Spruce. She continued to create works during a multi-year battle with breast cancer, completing her final etching, Mimbres Kokopelli, before she passed in 1984.
The Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College is proud to display this beautiful exhibit throughout 2018.