Museum of Northern Arizona

Flagstaff, AZ



The Art of Fritz Scholder from the Tom and Mary Jane McClain Collection


Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) visitors can experience the diverse works of internationally known artist Fritz Scholder this summer when the exhibit "Art and Soul: The Art of Fritz Scholder from the Tom and Mary Jane McClain Collection" opens June 19, 1999. The exhibit celebrates a special relationship between the two Phoenix-based collectors and the Scottsdale artist and features nearly 65 pieces from the McClain collection.

Scholder first became internationally recognized in the 1960s for his unromanticized depiction of American Indians, but has since explored a variety of subjects including flowers, dreams, vampires, the millennium, ancient Egypt, and landscapes. The exhibit will highlight the widely respected comprehensive nature of the McClain collection, displaying pieces that date from 1965 to the late 1990s.

A unique feature of "Art and Soul" is that Scholder will assist McClain and MNA staff in placing all the pieces, which include paintings, monoprints, lithographs, drawings, sculpture, and a ceramic piece, in the gallery. Mishael Magarian, MNA Special Assistant to the Vice President of Museum Services, cited one example of the central role both McClain and Scholder have played throughout the curation of the exhibit by describing the bold purple, orange, and green paints chosen for the gallery walls. "Fritz's eyes lit up when he saw the purple," Magarian said. "It really highlights the striking palette he uses for his work."

Fritz Scholder was born October 6, 1037, in Breckenridge, Missouri. Although his paternal grandmother was a member of the Luiseno tribe of Mission Indians in California, Scholder grew up in an Anglicized world and does not consider himself a Native American. After earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Arizona, Scholder moved to Santa Fe where he taught painting and art history at the Institute of American Indian Arts. The Native Americans he met there captivated him and he began a series of paintings, called "Indians Forever Suite", for which he became heralded as the leader of the New American Indian Art movement.

He also caught McClain's eye with this series. An art collector since the age of 16, McClain has collected pieces representing all phases and media of Scholder's career. MNA joins tile list of galleries and museums in China, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia that have exhibited Scholder's work when "Art and Soul" opens. The exhibit runs through October 10, 1999.

The Museum of Northern Arizona is dedicated to the understanding and interpretation of the arts, cultures, and sciences of the Colorado Plateau through exhibits, educational programs, and special events. The Museum is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM and located north of Flagstaff on U.S. Highway 180.

Images of Fritz Scholder art from top to bottom (click on the thumbnail images to enlarge them): The Last Ride II, 1989, bronze; Millennium Healing, 1998, acrylic on canvas; Standing Indian, 1973, acrylic on canvas; Another Dream Horse II, bronze


RL readers may also enjoy this video: is a unique, non-profit entity that has an extensive collection of biographies, profiles and interviews of the great thinkers, achievers and influencers of our time. The site features video segments of an interview with Native American artist Fritz Scholder recorded on June 29, 1996 at Sun Valley, Idaho

On July 29, 2006 RL received a press release from the Harwood Museum announcing a Gallery Talk, Thursday, August 10th, 2006 with Curator Margaret Bullock on artist Fritz Scholder. The press release contained the following biographical information on the artist:

Fritz Scholder (1937 ­ 2005) had a long and prolific career as a painter, sculptor, lithographer, teacher and bookmaker ­ an exhibition of his paintings and prints is on view at the Harwood Museum through September 10th.
Scholder received his B.A. from Sacramento College in 1960, and afterwards attended the Southwest Indian Art Project at the University of Arizona, an experimental summer program in arts education funded by the Rockefeller Foundation which brought together Native American Students from all over the US ­ a model that continued in the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe.
In 1964, after receiving a Master's degree at the University of Arizona, Scholder moved to Santa Fe to teach art history at the IAIA. As a teacher he was greatly influenced by his students who shared their unique perspectives based on their varied Tribal backgrounds and histories. Scholder taught contemporary art history and for five years, until retiring from IAIA in 1969. The mutually supportive relationship between teacher and students allowed for Scholder's growth into areas of untraditional, experimental work.
In 1967, Scholder began his "Indian Series" which was a subject that he continued for most of his career. While some found his depiction of Native American life disrespectful, others saw it as fresh and contemporary. Blending a pop-art take on his subjects with an expressionistic sense of color, line and texture Scholder established a place for himself with the contemporary art scene. His work ruffled some feathers by challenging not only the romantic version of the Indian popularized by 19th century illustrators and the Taos Society of Artists but also was a far cry from the stylized Indian subjects promoted by Dorothy Dunn and the Santa Fe Indian School.
The importance of Fritz Scholder along with fellow IAIA instructors Allan Houser and Charles Loloma lies in how these artists  changed Native American Art forever ­ allowing for a multiplicity of subjects, styles and methods which placed their work within the context of not only contemporary Art History but also forming the backbone of contemporary American Indian Art.

rev. 7/29/06

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