Avery Collection of American Indian Paintings

Navajo Maidens (1970) by Manfred Susunkewa, Hopi, Casein on Board, Catalog No.: 2000-186-202 . See more in the slideshow below.

About the Avery Collection of American Indian Paintings

Marjorie Pierce was born in Phoenix in 1923 (1923-2015) to a farming and ranching family. While attending the University of Arizona, she met and married Harlow Avery, who was to become a doctor.  The couple settled in Pecos, Texas. In 1960, Mrs. Avery purchased a painting by Navajo artist Beatien Yazz and became hooked. By 1999, her world-class collection of original works by American Indian artists grew to over 500 paintings. That year she decided to share a significant portion of her collection with the people of Arizona and the public at large by donating 355 paintings to the Arizona State Museum. She also wanted to share stories about her collecting methods of the last forty years and the relationships or connections she built with the artists, whose strength of character and talents she greatly admired.

The paintings bracket the period 1935 to 1990, a time that brought many changes to reservation and rural economies. Tourism dating from the completion of a transcontinental railway system, was enhanced by interstate highways and improved infrastructure that brought customers looking for art and craft produced by the "first American" to rural and reservation communities. At the same time, expositions like the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial and Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico and the American Indian Exposition in Anadarko, Oklahoma provided important venues for artists and buyers to meet and make connections and friendships. Museums, commercial galleries and international expositions were also instrumental in bringing American Indian art into public view. These and other venues provided a marketplace for collectors and patrons like Mrs. Avery.

Southwestern American Indian artists are well represented in the collection along with some excellent representative paintings from Oklahoma and Minnesota artists. Among the artists are: Fred Beaver (Creek), Harrison Begay (Navajo), Shonto Begay (Navajo), Michael Chiago (Tohono O'odham), Woody Crumbo (Potawatomi), Tony Da (San Ildefonso Pueblo), David Dawangyumptewa (Hopi), Patrick Desjarlait (Ojibwa), Carl Gorman (Navajo), R.C. Gorman (Navajo), Helen Hardin (Santa Clara Pueblo), Valjean Hessing (Choctaw), Raphael Medina (Zia), Al Momaday (Kiowa), Gernonima Montoya (San Juan Pueblo), Raymond Naha (Hopi), and Beatien Yazz (Navajo).

Marjorie Pierce Avery (center, seated) among friends and many members of her family at the opening of an exhibit of the Avery Collection in 2002.

Over forty years ago, the purchase of a single painting grew into what is now The Avery Collection. A very gratifying and unexpected side effect of collecting has been people -- those interesting, knowledgeable, charming, friendly, colorful, fun people! --Marjorie Pierce Avery, December 1999