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When John Lukavic began planning Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967–1980 (at the Denver Art Museum through January 17), the associate curator of native arts was desperate to show one piece: “Indian Power” (1972). Like much of Scholder’s work, the painting plays within stereotypes; it also became an icon of Native American empowerment. It was displayed on everything from magazines to record albums. Which is why it was surprising that no one knew where the original ended up. So Lukavic turned into a super sleuth to find it.
November 2013 | In most of the catalogs, books, and magazines Lukavic paged through in preparation for the exhibition, “Indian Power” was cited under “collection unknown.” Finally—in a 1977 catalog for an exhibit in Santa Fe, New Mexico—Lukavic uncovered an owner: John Hawn of Breckenridge. Through tax records and the inaugural board members of the 35-year-old Breckenridge Film Festival (in an old newspaper article, Lukavic discovered Hawn had donated money to the festival), Lukavic tracked Hawn to Austin, Texas. He contacted Hawn’s wife on Facebook.
April 2014 | Hawn’s wife confirmed that her husband had owned “Indian Power,” but he no longer had it. She promised to reach out to the new owner; months passed without word from her. With the deadline for the exhibit’s catalog approaching, Lukavic gave up: “Indian Power” wouldn’t make the show.
June 2015 | On a jog through Cherry Creek North, a friend of Lukavic’s spied “Indian Power” in Saks Galleries. It was on consignment from an estate. She texted a picture to Lukavic who, though on vacation in New York, asked DAM supporters Vicki and Kent Logan to buy the piece. Within days, it had been arranged.
October 2015 | “Indian Power” (pictured) sits in the center of the DAM’s exhibit, surrounded by Scholder’s other—more famous—works, like “Super Indian No. 2.”