In Santa Fe in 1975, my husband and I fell in love with a painting, “Universal Protector.” It was too beautiful to walk away from, and we bought it. The artist was Helen Hardin. The painting hung in our home for over three decades, and I continued to re-discover and enjoy its rich detail over all that time.
To honor her amazing talent, I borrowed her design elements, colors, and textures, and recombined them so that I would not just be copying her work. I owned a biography, Changing Woman, The Life and Art of Helen Hardin by Jay Scott, and a Southwest Visions address book with images of her paintings. I looked at every image of her work available, to find the motifs and colors that she used again and again.
My final design includes the eagle that she used as a focal point in many of her paintings, plus the stepped designs, repeating triangles and circles, and fine line work that she used as both background and shading. Her rich southwest colors, especially turquoise, are some of my favorites as well, and I found fabrics that imitated her speckled surfaces. To complete the illusion of her style, I used traditional piecing and appliqué techniques that would give me the precision I needed. I drew her face in colored pencil, using realism to set it off from its very geometric surroundings.
A few years ago, we sold our beautiful painting to another collector. I still miss seeing it every day.
Woman’s Groundbreaking Accomplishment
Helen Hardin was the only woman in a group of young 1960s artists who challenged and changed the expectations and look of Native American painting.
Machine foundation piecing; Seminole patchwork; a combination of both; machine appliqué; curved bias piecing; fussy-cutting and piecing of patterned fabrics; hand applied beads; machine embroidery. The face is drawn; machine quilting.
Commercial cotton fabrics; metal, stone, and glass beads; Derwent Inktense colored pencils; wool batting.