The unique collection of work by San Ildefonso artist Awa Tsireh ( also known as Alfonso Roybal and Cat Tail Bird ) is now open to the public in the Heard Museum's Jacobson Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona. This is the first exhibition, open through July 2018, features his paintings and metalwork together.
Awa Tsireh: Pueblo Painter and Metalsmith will draw from collections of the Heard Museum, art museums across the U.S., private collections of art and the collection of Norman L. Sandfield, a Chicago-based gay collector and activist.
"We are thrilled to be exhibiting the work of one of the greatest Native American artists of the early 20th century," said Heard Museum Director and CEO, David Roche. "Awa Tsireh's paintings include a broad range of subject matter but mostly draw on traditional Pueblo life. His depictions of animals exude charm and whimsy but some of his most powerful work can be found in the exploration of ceremonial rituals and symbols. This exhibition features riveting examples of his work that reflect his superb sense of design, composition, color and distinctive style. This story could not have been told without Norman Sandfield's singular and rare collection of work by Awa Tsireh, which he has generously promised to the Heard Museum."
Born at San Ildefonso Pueblo in 1898, Awa Tsireh began his painting career in 1917 and by the early 1920s his work was exhibited nationally. Awa Tsireh was among the first Pueblo artists to achieve national recognition, helping to bring about a new understanding of American Indian art as fine art.
Although he received accolades for his paintings throughout his lifetime, less is known about Awa Tsireh's work in silver and copper. As early as 1930, the artist was spending summers at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post in Colorado Springs where he made whimsical silver brooches and large copper and silver trays decorated with intricate stampwork.
The book, Awa Tsireh: Pueblo Painter and Metalsmith, written for the exhibition by Heard Museum curator of collections Diana Pardue and Norman L. Sandfield is available at Books and More.