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Art Inspiration: Helen Hardin

Helen Hardin was an intriguing woman and one of the preeminent Native American artists of the 20th century. The daughter of celebrated Santa Fe artist, Pablita Velarde created her own geometric and abstract paintings and was mostly self-taught. Seventeen magazine featured her before she was eighteen and she was the subject of a 1976 PBS program that made her internationally famous. Hardin created surfaces with thick layers of acrylic paints and glazes. Chiefs, ceremonial robes, stylized pottery, motifs, and abstract geometric line are prominent in her work.  Her creative expression developed from her Roman Catholic upbringing and her Native American heritage.  Her ability as an etcher was evident in the three masterful pieces of the "Woman Series” that she began in 1981. She continued to paint with great determination and these works became increasingly spiritual and compassionate.  


Changing Woman, Medicine Woman, and Listening Woman are three works by Helen Hardin.  They represent some of the earliest pieces accessioned into the Jesuit Dallas Museum collection. Changing Woman is a mythical figure in both Navajo and Pueblo lore. The face of Changing Woman is divided in half. She is a woman in profile looking deep within herself and out into the world.  Medicine Woman’s feathers symbolize her healing spirit. Medicine woman is a healer but not necessarily a nurse or doctor, but could be a caring mother. Listening Woman confronts the viewer. She listens very strongly, is bold and looks directly at you. Hardin said, “Listening Woman is the speaker, she’s the person who’s more objective, the listener and the compassionate person.”


During the 1970s, she also lectured and exhibited paintings at the Albuquerque’s Enchanted Mesa Gallery.  Her work can be found in the Colorado Museum of Fine Art, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and The Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, Oklahoma and other galleries.