Off the Reservation

If you think the Heard Museum is all about dusty old pots and Indian blankets, you haven't been there lately

But the atmosphere and the noise level shift abruptly around noon. At that point, two docents make their way through the gallery, each leading a group of observers. Each woman recognizes the brothers and greets them enthusiastically.

For both groups, one after another, the de la Torres are asked to speak about their work.

They are a little sheepish, at first, but they warm to the task. There's nothing snobbish about them, and they seem to genuinely enjoy the chats.

Treehouse Kit, Guy Ben Nur, 2005
courtesy of the Heard Museum
Treehouse Kit, Guy Ben Nur, 2005
The Heard's Crossroads Gallery has location on its side.
Martha Strachan
The Heard's Crossroads Gallery has location on its side.

Location Info

Map

Heard Museum

2301 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Museums

Region: Central Phoenix

Then comes a third group, again led by a docent. A group of junior high and high school kids, they're from the Ganado Unified School District, which is located on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona.

Once again, the brothers speak easily, and as they talk, some of the kids' wheels are clearly turning. Several videotape the conversation. One boy, shyly, asks the brothers to pose for a photo.

They're fixated by the human hair that's attached to the face of the trailer. "It's creepy," one girl exclaims, but she doesn't hesitate to touch it.

Another explains that Navajos don't discard their hair after its been cut; it's considered a part of the person, and that makes it worth saving.

After the students leave, the brothers marvel over the information.

"That's something we didn't know," Jamex says. "We can use that now when we're talking about this." He jokes slyly, "We can tell people that was our idea all along."

"It's just great to see them interested," Einar exults.

But the brothers have to catch a plane, and after they leave, no groups pass through for a while. The gallery goes quiet. The few people who come in don't stay long.

And that's when the older couple walks in. Her hair is frizzy and gray, and she's dressed in the uniform of snowbirds everywhere: Capri pants, a pastel tee shirt.

She practically bounds into the gallery, striding right up to the trailer as her husband follows.

"Oh, look, what is this?" she calls out, peering in the window. "This is what they lived in, right?"

They pause for a moment, confused, taking in the trophy wife visible through the window. And they see the face that fronts the trailer, with its television screens in place of eyes.

"It has nothing to do with that," her husband says, irritated.

Without another word, they exit the Crossroads Gallery, heading back to the Navajo blankets, back to the painted pots, to the Heard they came to see.

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