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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 mwhistler@eiteljorg.com

 

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. 

 

 

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