Art of the Ancient Americas
Permanent Collection

This exhibition is temporarily closed while undergoing gallery repairs and a reinterpretation, thanks to a generous donation from the Daniel R. Martin Foundation. Reopening Spring 2024.

Earth, Fire & Stone: Kenneth E. Stratton Collection of Art of Ancient Mexico

September of 1992 marked the opening of the Fresno Art Museum’s Hans Sumpf Gallery of Mexican Art. It was an opening highlighted by an installation entitled Masterpieces of Mesoamerican Pre-Columbian Ceramics from the Kenneth E. Stratton Collection. The original gallery was designed to give the impression of walking into a space similar in feeling to a shaft tomb as most of the ceramic artworks from Kenneth Stratton’s bequest originally came from just such burial sites. Prompted by Stratton’s gift to the Museum, the Sumpf family contributed the necessary funds to house the collection. Because Hans Sumpf and Kenneth Stratton had been lifelong friends, it is fitting that this gallery honors the life of two remarkable men who cared passionately about their community and the vital culture of our southern neighbors.

The majority of the Stratton collection on display was created before the Europeans entered the New World and represent cultures from the area now known as West Mexico and date from 500 to 2500 years in age. The collection’s strength is evident in the outstanding examples representing Olmec, Tlatilco, Chupícuaro, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Teotihuacan, Veracruz, Oaxaca, and the Lagunillas style. This splendid collection, gathered over the years by Kenneth E. Stratton, has enabled the Museum to foster a deep appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of the Mexican and Mexican-American people.

Textiles and Artifacts from Ancient Andean Cultures

In the spring of 1995, the Fresno Art Museum introduced its audience to the  Andean collection of ancient art textiles and artifacts assembled by the weaver Janet B. Hughes. Representing regional variations drawn from a number of cultures, the Hughes Collection of Andean Art clearly indicates that weaving was one of the earliest forms of artistic expression as well as a means of status identification for the ancient peoples of Peru.

Numbering over 650 artifacts, the Hughes Collection features both textiles and ceramic artifacts from the southernmost point of Peru. Carved wooden objects, including ceremonial vessels known as keros, are included in the current exhibition along with a selection of ancient textiles recovered from tombs throughout Peru. A group of ceramic vessels from various cultures once living in this arid region reveal examples of the stylized zoomorphic and anthropomorphic forms that are repeated in some of the vivid colored textiles. Even though the Andean potters employed simple techniques in the production of ceremonial and utilitarian vessels, they crafted vessels with graceful lines and pleasing proportions. The sculpted vessels may take on these same anthropomorphic or zoomorphic shapes and often include painted designs that have been applied to the surface. Nazca, Moche, Lambayeque, Chancay, Chiribaya, and Arica cultures are represented in the ceramic works.


Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957)
(previously referred to as El dia de las flores, Xochilmilco)


The original painting is a very important work in FAM's permanent collection. It was painted around 1926 and represents a group of peasants near Xochimilco, Mexico. The work was purchased by Marguerite Lopez of Fresno directly from Rivera. Upon her death, the painting was purchased from her estate by Caroline and Clarence Harris who gifted the painting to the Fresno Art Museum in 1976. The painting is on view after returning from a traveling exhibition organized by SFMOMA and titled Diego Rivera's America, along with original correspondence between Rivera and Lopez and other related items of interest.

Image: Diego Rivera, Fiesta, 1926, Oil on canvas, 25" x 31", FAM76.1, © 2023 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013)


This large Ruth Asawa metal sculpture, after cleaning, has a new permanent home in the Museum.

Ruth Asawa was an American artist and sculptor nationally recognized for her wire sculptures, public commissions, and activism in arts education. She was the Fresno Art Museum's Counsel of 100 Distinguished Woman Artist in 2001. Born in Norwalk, CA, she lived and worked in San Francisco, CA from 1949 until her death in 2013.

Image: Ruth Asawa, Untitled(S.440, Wall-Mounted Tied-Wire, Open-Center, Five- Petaled Form Based on Nature) C.1975, Copper wire, 50 x 50 x 6 1/2 in. (127 x 127 x 16.51 cm) Artwork © Estate of Ruth Asawa, Collection of the Fresno Art Museum, Gift of the Artist in honor of Robert Barrett’s 10th anniversary as FAM Executive Director


Darren Waterston (American, 1965)
Last Days (Gabriel)

Darren Waterston-Last Days (Gabriel).jpg

Fresno born Darren Waterston is best known for his lyrical abstractions resembling dripping organic forms and misty landscapes. He has been exhibiting his paintings, works on paper, and installations in the U.S. and abroad since the early 1990s. He studied at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles before attending the Akademie der Kunst in Berlin. He currently lives and works in New York.

Image: Darren Waterston, Last Days (Gabriel), 2007, Oil on canvas mounted on wood panel, Gift of Kaye Bonner Cummings