A Guide to Touring: Arriving Forever into the Present World

by Dewayne Matthews

These notes reflect my own ideas and understanding and not those of the Heard Museum or Guild. Please let me know immediately of any errors or misconceptions you see, plus any corrections, suggestions, additional information or insights you can share.

The tribal names used in Arriving Forever are in their respective languages— Akimel O’Otham, Tohono O’Odham, Diné, and Kha’p’o Owenge. The official tribal names of the last two are Navajo Nation and Santa Clara Pueblo.


Put simply, this exhibit explores the meaning of traditional versus contemporary in Native art.

In the Western “modern” world, time is seen as linear—one thing follows another and things that happen are never repeated. In this way of seeing the world, the future will inevitably be different from today. But, in fact, we all experience a different kind of time—circular time. The sun rises, sets, and rises again. Summer follows spring and winter follows autumn in a never-ending pattern. Plants grow and produce seeds that produce new plants. The stars follow paths in the sky that can last millennia, but which eventually return to complete their cycle. This is nature’s time.

Western art is usually understood in terms of linear time so it is often studied and displayed chronologically. Art is understood as a progression through distinct periods–Renaissance art gave way to neo-classicism followed by romanticism and then modern art. The art of the past becomes “traditional” in contrast to the new.

Arriving Forever suggests that this linear approach is not the best way to understand Native art. Focusing on three art forms of the Southwest—weaving, pottery, and basketry—the exhibit shows how notions like traditional versus contemporary are not adequate to understand or appreciate Native art.


This point is made very clear by the Diné weavings on display in the exhibit. The first (to the left) is a Germantown weaving from c. 1890, but there is nothing about it that suggests it is “traditional.” At the time it was made, it represented a radical departure from the Classic period weavings that preceded it. It is still vibrant and contemporary.

The next weaving is an even older First-phase weaving made in the early 19th Century. Compared to current weavings in what are now considered traditional styles, it appears fresh and contemporary. Next to it is a much more recent (2008) pictorial weaving by Jane Hyden that refers back to a key event in Navajo history—the Long Walk of 1864. Contemporary weavings by Marilou Schultz, DY Begay, and Phillip Singer strikingly combine “modern” and “traditional” design and likewise demonstrate the legacy of Diné weaving.

Finally, the last two weavings—both Two Grey Hills—drive the point home. The first is a masterpiece by Daisy Taugelchee that still wears its ribbons from the 1954 Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial. Next to it is a 2015 weaving by Salina Dale that takes the “traditional” Two Grey Hills diamond design and inverts it, in effect turning it inside out, creating a lively dialogue between two artists 60 years apart.


The baskets included in Arriving Forever likewise demonstrate the limitations of linear time in appreciating Native art. Two early 20th century Akimel O’Otham baskets and a more recent horsehair basket plaque are based on traditional squash blossom and coyote tracks designs. But all three could be considered works of op-art because of their sophisticated visual effects creating depth and a sense of motion.

Two pictorial baskets are displayed side-by-side, creating another artistic dialogue over time. An older Akimel O’Otham basket depicts figures that appear to be workers. Next to it, a 2015 basket by Annie Antone depicts couples dancing to chicken scratch music.

Finally, an early-20th century basket for holding saguaro wine shows how even utilitarian objects were made with great beauty. Even though the basket was heavily used, one can still make out the ornate pattern of its weaving. Wire baskets were also a utilitarian innovation, but are likewise appreciated for their artistic qualities. Next to these is a basket by Terrol Dew Johnson which takes traditional forms of Tohono O’Odham basketry in a striking new direction.


Not only is the pottery in Arriving Forever all from Kha’p’o Owenge (Santa Clara Pueblo), it also shows how the art is passed down from generation to generation within families—creating what the exhibit calls “tradition as innovation.”

Multiple generations of the Tafoya family are represented in the exhibit; Sara Fina Tafoya, her daughter Margaret Tafoya, and Margaret’s granddaughter Nancy Youngblood and grandson Nathan Youngblood. The pieces on display show how each generation’s work simultaneously reflects the traditions passed through the family and the innovation and uniqueness that each artist brings to the work.

Likewise, two pots by Jody Folwell (daughter of pottery artist Rose Naranjo) are displayed next to works by her daughters Polly Rose Folwell and Susan Folwell. The familial influences are clear, as is each artist’s unique contribution.


One should not overlook the few “outliers” in the exhibit, including a basket by Diné artist Joann Johnson and a magnificent pot by young Diné artist Jared Tso. Tso’s pot deserves close examination of its corrugated texture. His artist’s statement is a fitting summation of Arriving Forever:

Tradition, for the American Indian, is a double-edged knife. One side of the knife is sharpened with community and is used to carve out what we want our future to look like. The other is marred by the anthropological and archaeological definitions of the nostalgic past, where our authenticity as Native peoples lies in the act of recreating the past with primitive methods. To our fault, we tend to soften the memories of our past with romance rather than fall in love with our present. I hope my work leaves a lingering taste that is reminiscent of that fleeing moment. I intend to carry the weight of all these events that are happening at the same time. I dream of pots that tell a story of land while also escaping the vernacular that limits its realness.”