Harry Fonseca: The Art Of Living

Open Now – April 21, 2019

Celebrate the life and art of influential contemporary Native artist, Harry Fonseca.

The Life and Art of Harry Fonseca

What is it: This exhibit remembers and shares the talent, perspective and legacy of the late Harry Fonseca (Maidu/Nisenan, Portuguese, Hawaiian, 1946–2006). One of the most beloved and revered contemporary Native artists of our time, Fonseca is known for the versatility and experimentation of his work. His retrospective exhibition, Harry Fonseca: The Art of Living, explores histories of Native peoples, of painting and the humanity of a life well lived.

Who is it for: Harry Fonseca: The Art of Living will appeal to anyone that loves contemporary art and loves to be inspired. For those that are familiar with Fonseca’s work, they can expect to gain more insight into his warmth and humor often depicted in his art.

Come experience Fonseca’s work.

How to visit: See exhibit Mon-Sat 10-5 p.m., and Sun 12 p.m.-5 p.m.

Admission: Exhibit is included with the cost of museum admission


From the start of his career in the 1970s, Fonseca (Nisenan/Maidu/ Portuguese/Hawaiian) changed perceptions of Native artists. He broke through barriers by gaining the respect and admiration of art critics and academics who began to view contemporary Native art as fine art. Fonseca was named an Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellow in 2005.

Visitors will be inspired by the variety and creative output of Fonseca’s work. Among the best known of his subjects is his Coyote series that allude to both the trickster and heroic nature of Coyote as viewed by his Maidu’s cultural lens. Coyote is often portrayed donning late 20th century clothing to convey modern Native experience as evolving yet continuing.

Fonseca employed different painting techniques, styles and themes that allowed him to investigate and revisit many series. One series focused on the impact of the Gold Rush on Native peoples in California; another called Stone Poems reinterpreted on canvas the stone petroglyphs of ancient Native peoples of the Southwest. In yet another series, his Stripes and Seasons paintings generate dialogue and ignite imagination.

In showcasing some of the best of Fonseca’s work, the 2018 exhibit presents insights into the artist’s warmth and humor, particularly through his painted handwritten notes and in sketches that depict his love of classical music, opera and entertaining guests. Fonseca’s death from cancer in 2006 brought about a profound loss to the contemporary Native art field; this exhibit, therefore, celebrates his extraordinary life’s work and legacy and places his legacy into a fuller context.

Harry Fonseca: The Art of Living will open May 19 and continues for one year in the Eiteljorg’s Hurt and Harvey galleries. A catalog of the Fonseca collection is available in the Frank and Katrina Basile Museum Store. For information about reservations to a special opening cocktail reception the evening of Friday, May 18, please contact Mary Whistler at 317-275-1316 or mwhistler@eiteljorg.com

Come experience Harry Fonseca’s work