Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • Beautiful Western art, interactives and compelling interpretation in new Western galleries

    by Bryan Corbin, Storyteller editor | Oct 11, 2018

    Grafton Tyler Brown_Castle Geyser
    Grafton Tyler Brown (American, 1841–1918)
    Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, 1891
    Oil on canvas
    Museum purchase through the generosity of Harrison Eiteljorg

    Big changes are unfolding in the Eiteljorg Museum's Western art galleries that will allow visitors to understand and appreciate the art in new ways.

    The two connected Western galleries on the museum’s ground floor — the Art of the American West Gallery and the Gund Gallery — were renovated over the summer. Iconic paintings and sculptures have been reinstalled alongside newly acquired works, and are supported by engaging hands-on interactives. On Nov. 10, the galleries will reopen to the public to showcase a new exhibition: Attitudes: The West in American Art.

    The reinstalled galleries will present fresh and engaging interpretations of Western art in a beautiful setting. The Attitudes exhibit places the Western art pieces into their historical and cultural contexts, and positions them within the broader framework of American art. It shows, for example, how Western art is not an isolated offshoot, but is instead deeply rooted within America’s larger artistic traditions and movements.

    “Not only are our new galleries addressing the question of what Western art is, they are more deeply exploring the art’s place in American culture,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “If a visitor wonders why a particular painting or sculpture looks the way it does, or how the artist made it, or what that artist’s life was like, then our new galleries will convey those insights. The experience will make a visit to the Eiteljorg all the more rewarding and enriching.”

    Mian Situ_The Golden Mountain, Arriving San Francisco, 1865
    Mian Situ (American, born in China, 1953)
    The Golden Mountain, Arriving San Francisco, 1865, 2003
    Oil on canvas
    Museum purchase with funds provided by the Eiteljorg Museum’s Western Art Society

    What will you see? Some of the stunning artworks shown in the galleries in years past that are visitor favorites will return, including paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Frederic Remington, Albert Bierstadt, Oscar Berninghaus and Charles Russell, and sculptures by Remington, George Carlson and Allan Houser. Through grants, many have been conserved and reframed, allowing us to show them as the artists intended. Some paintings of Native Americans are closely arranged together on a wall in salon style, as a part of interpreting their influence on perceptions of Indigenous peoples.

    Also included in the exhibit are some exciting recent acquisitions that underscore the diversity of artists in the West: Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, a dramatic landscape by a 19th century African-American painter, Grafton Tyler Brown; The Golden Mountain: Arriving San Francisco, 1865, a moving historical scene by contemporary Chinese-American painter Mian Situ; and The Twins, a pottery piece by Native American artist Susan Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo). Folwell’s piece is a contemporary interpretation of a famous early 20th century portrait already in the Eiteljorg, The Twins by E. Martin Hennings, which is juxtaposed nearby so visitors can compare the two.

    E Martin Hennings_The Twins
    E. Martin Hennings (American, 1886–1956)
    The Twins, 1923
    Oil on canvas
    Gift: Courtesy of Harrison Eiteljorg

    Diversity of peoples who shaped the West is a theme explored through a high-tech interactive that interprets the 20th century mural painting The Americanization of California by Dean Cornwell. Using a touchscreen, visitors can bring up information about each of the dozens of diverse figures in the Cornwell mural and consider the myths revealed versus reality of life in the West. Works by European-American artists depicting Native Americans are intermingled with artworks by Native artists themselves, conveying their own perspectives.

    Enlivening the Attitudes exhibit is a mix of high- and low-tech interactives that will appeal to all ages. In the galleries’ studio space, visitors can learn and appreciate the elements of art, such as line, color, form and texture, through touchable displays and art activities suitable for families and children.

    Reinstallation of the Eiteljorg’s Western galleries was several years in the planning and months in execution. Overseeing the project and exhibition are James H. Nottage, who recently retired as vice president and chief curatorial officer and Gund curator of Western art, and Johanna M. Blume, associate curator of Western art, history and culture.

    Allowing visitors in to see the reinstalled galleries Saturday, Nov. 10, is such a milestone for the museum that it merits two evenings of special occasions: A reopening celebration and dinner honoring James Nottage is on Thursday, Nov. 8, and a members opening event is on Friday, Nov. 9. For reservations to either, contact or 317.275.1316.

    This project to reimagine and renovate the Western galleries on the first floor is a prelude to the reinstallation of the Eiteljorg’s Native American galleries on the second floor that will take place in 2021.

    Susan Folwell_The Twins
    Susan Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo, born 1970)
    The Twins, 2017
    Clay, cork and paint
    Gift of Steve and Jane Marmon

    Opening Weekend Events
    NOV 8, 9, 10
    See the new exhibition beginning
    NOV 10

    Opening Weekend — New Western Art Galleries
    NOV 8
    5:30 p.m.
    Special reopening celebration honoring James Nottage’s retirement.*

    NOV 9
    6 p.m.
    Preview of reopened Western galleries for members.*

    *For reservations to either event, contact or call 317.275.1316.

    NOV 10
    1 p.m.
    Gund Lecture
    James Nottage photoAs a part of opening the museum’s newly reimagined first-floor Western art galleries, retired Eiteljorg Vice President and Chief Curatorial Officer James H. Nottage will deliver this year’s Gund Lecture. Nottage will introduce the exhibit and discuss how art related to the West has been viewed through time, and how art expresses the West. The Gund Lecture is included with regular admission, and museum members are free.

    NOV 10
    Bill Price musician2:30–4 p.m.
    Music performance: I Can’t Stop Looking at the Sky
    Join musicians Bill Price, Paul Holdman and Grover Parido for a multi-media performance inspired by Western skies and the history and landscapes of the West.


    Reimagined Western Art Galleries made possible by these generous friends:
    Pat and Bob Anker
    Leland E. Boren
    Mary Beth and Robert Braitman
    Steve Cagle
    Capital Group
    Angie and Dick Darlington
    L.G. and Alyce Edwards
    Ms. Catherine Turner
    Barbara and Brian West in memory of Edward A. West
    Donald Woodley
    Museum Entry Video Wall: Stan and Sandy Hurt
    Art Education Interactives: Jane and Steve Marmon



    This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Storyteller magazine.




  • Exhibit showcasing Harry Fonseca’s extraordinary body of work opens May 19

    by Jennifer Complo McNutt, curator of contemporary art | Feb 12, 2018

    Harry Fonseca_St. Francis of AssisiIn 2005 the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship awarded one of five Eiteljorg Fellowships to Harry Fonseca (Maidu/Nisenan/
    Portuguese/Hawaiian). A short 13 months later, Fonseca passed. His death was mourned by the contemporary arts community as well as friends and colleagues. There was a rain of tears as we said goodbye to the creator of Coyote and Rose, Gold and Souls in California, Stone Poems, the St. Francis series and the Splatter and Stripes series, and recalled his charming coyote smile and silvery hair. Fonseca had left his corporeal form; and what remains is his legacy of whimsy and tricksters, ancient images, the revenges of greed and religious megalomania and a love of paint and painting.

    In 2014 the Eiteljorg was approached by Fonseca’s partner Harry Nungesser, fondly referred to as “Tucson Harry.” Fonseca’s home was in Santa Fe; Nungesser’s in Tucson. Over the years Nungesser had purchased many works of art from Fonseca, had received many gifts from him such as paintings, drawings, and prints, and had also documented Fonseca’s accomplishments. Nungesser had accumulated photos and personal correspondence that include drawings and paintings, invitations, articles and books — all told, about 80 works of art and six file boxes of archival information. Nungesser wanted to make a gift of his collection to the Eiteljorg.

    It is a welcomed and treasured gift. In February 2014, as we curators arrived at Nungesser’s to pack the collection for transport to the Eiteljorg, I was surprised to see this important collection was housed in a mobile home. This was no ordinary mobile home; it was known locally as the Trailer Trash Gallery, Sometimes Hotel and Sometimes Restaurant, a scene of many exquisite dinners and celebrations. Nungesser had inherited the trailer; and it was a perfect location to maintain the collection of Fonseca’s work in a hot dry climate, with minimal light and climate control.

    The Eiteljorg will celebrate this collection with an exhibition dedicated to Harry Fonseca’s work and life. Included will be paintings, prints, drawings and archival materials that provide an intimate look at this artist. The audience will be introduced to Fonseca’s work, love of music, food, family, and friends. There will be audible interpretation provided by Nungesser to listen to, scrapbooks to flip through, a catalog and a beautiful journey through the chronology of his work. It is a story of love and art not to be missed.

    Harry Fonseca

    The exhibit
    Harry Fonseca: The Art of Living will open May 19 and continue for one year in the Eiteljorg’s Hurt and Harvey galleries. A catalog of the Fonseca exhibit will be available in the Frank and Katrina Basile Museum Store. For information about reservations to a special opening reception at 6 p.m. Friday, May 18, please contact Mary Whistler at 317.275.1316 or


    Image Caption:
    Harry Fonseca (Maidu/Nisenan/Portuguese/Hawaiian, 1946-2006)
    St. Francis of Assisi, 1999 Mixed media on canvas
    65 x 35”
    Museum purchase with funds from Harry S. Nungesser in loving memory of his partner Harry Fonseca

    This essay originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Storyteller magazine. 



  • Beautiful and thought-provoking contemporary Native Art Now! exhibit will inspire

    by Eiteljorg Museum staff | Nov 01, 2017


    Do you want to see contemporary art that is surprising, challenging and intriguing? Such engaging artworks await you at the Eiteljorg Museum’s new exhibition Native Art Now!, which opens the weekend of Nov. 11-12.

    As home to one of the nation’s best collections of contemporary Native art, the Eiteljorg will showcase some of the most visually compelling pieces it has acquired over the past two decades. Native Art Now! will be on exhibit at the Eiteljorg until Jan. 28; then it will travel to other museums around the nation.

    So what exactly distinguishes contemporary Native art from other contemporary art?

    “The difference between a contemporary artist and a contemporary Native artist is about 15,000 years,” explained Jennifer Complo McNutt, curator of contemporary art at the Eiteljorg. “Contemporary Native artists have knowledge about their ancestors, traditions and cultures that spans thousands of years. That changes the way you see the world.”

    Rick Bartow_Fox Spirit
    Native contemporary artists had not received the same recognition as other contemporary artists, Complo McNutt said, but now the contemporary Native art field is coming into its own, admired and appreciated by scholars and collectors alike.

    That brings us to Indianapolis. To help support and sustain contemporary Native art, the Lilly Endowment Inc. for two decades has supported the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. Every other year since 1999, the Fellowship program has selected a new group of five Native artists and provided them grant support to further their careers and receive recognition. The Eiteljorg has purchased more than 200 contemporary works and received gifts of another 200 to add to its permanent collection. Thirty-nine significant examples are in Native Art Now! and will be on view in the museum’s special exhibition gallery.

    Dynamic and vibrant, the exhibit depicts the broad spectrum of Native art. You’ll see installations, paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, glass, and textile art by Indigenous artists from across the U.S. and Canada, such as Rick Bartow, Jim Denomie, Harry Fonseca, Nicholas Galanin, Meryl McMaster, Holly Wilson and others. Many pieces speak to injustices against Native peoples and the resilience of Native cultures. Others encompass innovative styles and mediums, and are open to interpretation.

    And what would a Native art show be without Indian humor? You will experience that, too.

    Holly Wilson_Enough
    The traveling exhibit is one part of the Native Art Now! project. The weekend of Nov. 11-12, the Eiteljorg will host a celebration and convening of leading Native artists and scholars. It will include a facilitated dialogue, moderated by a nationally known art and social justice expert, Betsy Theobald Richards, to consider the past, present and future of contemporary Native art, as well as the future of the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship.

    The Eiteljorg and WFYI also collaborated on a one-hour documentary that presents personal perspectives on Native contemporary art.  It is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Thursday Dec. 14 on WFYI-TV 20.1.

    The museum has produced a scholarly companion book for Native Art Now! that examines Native expression in contemporary art since 1992.

    When seeing Native Art Now!, don’t miss two other exhibits of contemporary Native art now on view at the Eiteljorg: In Their Honor, in the Hurt and Harvey galleries, and The Geometry of Expression, in the Myrta Pulliam Photography Gallery.



    Artists and scholars will convene for a dialogue led by Betsy Theobald Richards. The morning and afternoon events and lunch together are $30 per person or $15 for students.
    10 a.m. to noon: Facilitated discussion
    Noon to 1 p.m.: Buffet lunch
    1–3 p.m.: Preview of clips from the Native Art Now! documentary followed by roundtable discussions.
    5–9 p.m.: Native Art Now! exhibit opening celebration. This evening event is $50 for members and $60 for nonmembers.

    SUNDAY, NOV 12
    10:30 a.m. to noon: Fellowship artists convening led by Betsy Theobald Richards. The Eiteljorg Fellows will deliberate on the Fellowship to help forge its future. This event is included with general admission and the public is invited to attend, but please register.
    To register to attend any of the events, contact Mary Whistler at 317.275.1316 or by Nov. 3 or log onto


    Image Captions:

    James Lavadour (Walla Walla, born 1951)
    Naming Tanager, 2001
    Oil on wood
    Museum Purchase: Eiteljorg Fellowship. Acquisition in honor of Bonnie Reilly for her long service to the museum’s Collections Council.

    Rick Bartow (Wiyot, 1946—2016)
    Fox Spirit, 2000
    Mixed media
    Gift: Courtesy of Penny Ogle Weldon in memory of Kenneth L. Ogle, Jr.

    Holly Wilson (Delaware Tribe of Western Oklahoma/Cherokee, born 1968)
    Enough, 2015
    Museum Purchase: Eiteljorg Fellowship


    This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Storyteller magazine. 

  • Artistry and Excellence: A conversation with Betsy Theobald Richards about Native Art Now!

    by Bryan Corbin, editor, Storyteller magazine | Oct 23, 2017

    Betsy Theobald RichardsTo lead the dialogue at a convening of scholars and top contemporary Native artists, the Eiteljorg has selected a nationally known art and social justice expert: Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee Nation). With two decades of experience in philanthropy, arts education, advocacy and theater directing and producing, Richards served at the Pequot Museum and Ford Foundation and now is program director for The Opportunity Agenda. With a passion for Native art (her aunt is the renowned artist Kay WalkingStick), Richards designed the format of the facilitated conversations she will lead at Native Art Now! on Nov. 11-12 that will examine the future of contemporary Native art.

    Storyteller magazine recently interviewed Richards about the program, and her comments are lightly edited for space:

    On why she designed the format of the Native Art Now! gathering of artists and scholars to include facilitated roundtable discussions:
    “I put the suggestion out there that (the Eiteljorg) might want to try something I had tried at one of my biggest convenings called ‘Creative Change’ . . . which was how to take a large group of incredibly talented, visionary folks, and have them have a dialogue. That isn’t what we normally have, which is panels where four people sit up on the dais and talk at people and take questions. I tried to help design a format that will allow people to have dialogue among themselves, to have thought leaders for folks that begin conversations; but that the conversation then becomes owned by the group.”

    On what insights she expects participants will gain from the facilitated dialogue with artists:
    “What I hope is to get everybody thinking to create a space where people can think as big as possible about the future. Not just, ‘Five years from now we should have this program or two more exhibitions in a year,’ not just the tactics or mechanical outcomes, but really have time for some dreaming. Dreaming is a very powerful thing.”

    On the challenges that contemporary Native artists face today that will provide context for the discussions:
    “Contemporary Native art is contemporary art . . . Often contemporary Native art is sidelined. Some people are interested in historical or ethnographic pieces; but our artists are living treasures. They deserve to make a living . . . We should all appreciate the artistry and the excellence of these contemporary artists.”

    On the key points that should be conveyed to funders about the importance of supporting contemporary Native art:
    “We forget as Americans that we are on Native land and that our Indigenous cultures are an asset, something very special to this country. I think that we need to start understanding — not just funders, but America in general — what an incredible asset of our heritage and our future that our Native cultures are. And one of the most visible and powerful ways to exhibit our living cultures is through our art . . . We are living cultures, and these artists are upholding our living cultures in magnificent ways just as our ancestors did . . . If funders and the general public want to support Native communities, one of the many ways is to support Native culture (through art). Also, Native art is cool. I think people need to buy some Native art.”

    On her social justice work and how that relates to the convening of Fellowship artists:
    “A lot of my work is around incorporating art, culture, pop culture and media into the work of social change. And I have continued in my work in Indian Country and am as dedicated as ever to Native American art and culture; and hopefully I’ll be bringing the skills that I’ve learned, both around facilitation and around how to advance a dialogue, to this convening.”


    Artists and scholars will convene for a dialogue led by Betsy Theobald Richards about contemporary Native art. The morning and afternoon events and lunch together are $30 per person or $15 for students.
    10 a.m. to noon: Facilitated discussion
    Noon to 1 p.m.: Buffet lunch
    1–3 p.m.: Preview of clips from the Native Art Now! documentary followed by roundtable discussions.
    5–9 p.m.: Native Art Now! exhibit opening celebration. This evening event is $50 for members and $60 for nonmembers.

    SUNDAY, NOV 12
    10:30 a.m. to noon: Fellowship artists convening led by Betsy Theobald Richards. The Eiteljorg Fellows will deliberate on the Fellowship to help forge its future. This event is included with general admission and the public is invited to attend, but please register.

    To register to attend any of the events, contact Mary Whistler at 317.275.1316 or by Nov. 3 or log onto

    Kay WalkingStick -- Wallawa Memory

    Image caption:

    Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee Nation)
    Wallowa Memory, 2003
    Gift: Courtesy of the artist

    Photograph of Betsy Theobald Richards is courtesy of The Opportunity Agenda.

    This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Storyteller magazine.

  • Contemporary art in the spotlight in months ahead

    by Bryan Corbin, editor, Storyteller Magazine | Sep 12, 2017

    Fall is an exciting time for Native American contem­porary art at the Eiteljorg. Two ongoing exhibitions, In Their Honor and The Geometry of Expression, examine the work of several Native contemporary artists. These are prelude to one of the most important contemporary art shows the Eiteljorg has ever staged: Native Art Now!, opening Veterans Day weekend.

    The current and upcoming exhibitions exemplify the broad continuum of Native expression, often with con­ceptual pieces, upending the notion that Native art is narrow in its mediums and styles.

    In_Their_Honor_043“We in Indianapolis can be proud of the fact that the Eiteljorg has one of the nation’s best collections of contemporary Native art, and visitors over coming months can experience many intriguing examples of works by today’s artists,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said.

    Located in the Hurt and Harvey galleries, In Their Honor pays homage to five influential Native contemporary artists, now deceased, who were past fellows in the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship.

    Visitors will be engaged by the expressive sculptures by Allan Houser, poignant paint­ings and prints from George Morrison and Harry Fonseca, animal-human transformational figures by John Hoover and compelling paintings and sculptures by Rick Bartow. All five artists were groundbreakers whose works were exhibited in numerous museums and universities and who opened doors to the art world for a new generation of contemporary Native artists.

    Produced by Jennifer Complo McNutt, Eiteljorg curator of contemporary art, In Their Honor will be on exhibit through April 1, 2018.

    Kay WalkingStick -- Wallawa Memory

    Nearby in the museum’s Myrta Pulliam Gallery of Photography, prints by three living Eiteljorg Fellows — Kay WalkingStick, Anna Tsouhlarakis and Wendy Red Star — use geometry in thought-provoking ways and undoubtedly will foster discussion. The exhibit, The Geometry of Expression, was produced by Dorene Red Cloud, assistant curator of Native American art, and will be up through Jan. 7, 2018.

    Both exhibits build anticipation for the Nov. 11 public opening of Native Art Now!, a retro­spective of some of the archetypal work of Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship artists over the past 20 years. The 39 works, some of them newly purchased and not shown before, will include paintings, photography, sculpture and three large installations in the special exhibit gallery.

    Native Art Now! will be accompanied Nov. 11-12 by a convening of scholars, curators and many of the living Eiteljorg Fellows who will participate in a discussion about challenges facing contemporary Native artists today, as well as a preview of an upcoming TV documentary about the artists.

    Once it closes Jan. 28, Native Art Now! will go on tour as a traveling exhibition to other cities to present the work of these artists to broader audiences. In conjunction with Native Art Now!, the Eiteljorg is publishing a major survey book that reviews several decades of contemporary Native art and is authored by many of the most prominent authors in the field.


    In Their Honor, an ongoing exhibit of the work of Rick Bartow (Wiyot), Harry Fonseca (Nisenan Maidu/Hawaiian/Portuguese), John Hoover (Aleut), Allan Houser (Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache) and George Morrison (Ojibwe), in the Hurt and Harvey galleries, through April 1.

    The Geometry of Expression, an ongoing exhibit featuring the work of Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee), Wendy Red Star (Crow), and Anna Tsouhlarakis (Navajo/Creek/Greek), in the Myrta Pulliam Gallery of Photography through Jan. 7.

    Native Art Now!, a traveling exhibit of iconic contemporary Native art from the permanent collection of the Eiteljorg Museum, in the special exhibit gallery Nov. 11-Jan 28.

    Image Captions:

    Top two images: 
    Works by five artists who participated in the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship are now part of the In Their Honor exhibition in the Hurt and Harvey galleries.

    Lower image:
    Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee)
    Wallowa Memory, 2003
    Gift: Courtesy of the artist


    This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Storyteller magazine. 


© Eiteljorg Museum. All rights reserved.