PHOENIX, Ariz. - Geronimo. The name looms large in the history of the American West, the American Indian legacy and the colorful narratives of popular culture. But who was he really, this figure who has come down to us through a century of legends and a handful of sepia-toned photographs?
A compelling answer to this question, and a fascinating glimpse at the man behind the myth, will be offered by Beyond Geronimo: The Apache Experience, which opens at the Heard Museum on Feb. 11 and runs through Jan. 20. Curated by the Heard Museum and presented by JP Morgan Chase, the exhibit is an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Arizona statehood in 2012.
Unprecedented in scope and depth, Beyond Geronimo: The Apache Experience will combine objects from the Heard's world-class collection with exemplary pieces from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, the Autry National Center, the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Southern Plains Indian Museum, Allan Houser, Inc., the Amerind Foundation, the Arizona Historical Society, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum and a number of private lenders. Combining examples of cultural and fine art, the exhibit will include historic artifacts never before seen by the general public, such as the celebrated Naiche hide painting.
"We are fortunate to bring together collections from across the country," said Heard Curator Janet Cantley, "including historical and ethnographic artifacts as well as contemporary artists' works, which help tell the story of the strength and endurance of the Apache people. A personal highlight has been working with individuals from the Apache communities in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma."
Born in 1829, the person the world came to know as Geronimo was a medicine man of the Apache people who became a fearless and infamous warrior in the Arizona Indian Wars of 1880-86. Following his capture in 1886, Geronimo spent the remainder of his life as a prisoner of war, making the best of his fate by becoming a showman, appearing publicly in Wild West shows, at the 1904 World's Fair and in President Theodore Roosevelt's 1905 inaugural parade. Never allowed to return to his homeland, Geronimo died at Fort Sill, Okla. on Feb. 17, 1909.
Beyond Geronimo will bring this fascinating figure to life via personal possessions (moccasins, beaded awl case, bow and quiver), painted and photographic portraits, and other artifacts. The exhibit will also trace Geronimo's passage into legend via dime novels, movie posters and ephemera. Using Geronimo's life story as a window into the overall Apache experience, Beyond Geronimo will also portray other significant Apache events and leaders, such as Cochise, Daklugie, Alchesay and others, through personal objects, photographs and works of art.