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Maynard Dixon: the godfather of southwestern art

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
"The godfather of southwestern art"- Utah native Mike Allen, a southwestern art aficianado, enjoys the various drawings and paintings of Maynard Dixon at the UA Museum of Art. Dixon's work, featured in two exhibitis, will be on display until April 3.
By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 27, 2005
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Before newspapers had photographs, they had illustrations. And before John Wayne ever captured the southwest on the silver screen, Maynard Dixon did with his drawings and paintings.

Dixon, whose career spanned from 1897 to 1942, is still being honored in not one, but two exhibits at the University of Arizona Museum of Art.

Though the UA first began collecting Dixon's work in the 1980s, when Dixon's third wife Edith Hamlin loaned and sold some of his work to the UAMA, A.P. Hays and his wife have been collecting Dixon's artwork for more than 30 years now.

For three years, the Hayses have shared their collection of the artist's work with the traveling exhibition, "The Space Silence Spirit: Maynard Dixon's West," across the country.

"I felt that Dixon needed to be exposed in a broader area," Abe Hays said. "I've been interested in western art since my teens. He's probably the greatest artist in that genre."

The exhibit, which opened last Friday, is on display alongside the "Portraits of the Southwest" which features the UA's collection of Dixon's work.

"It's pretty representative," said Betsy Hughes, assistant curator at the UAMA, about both exhibits.

Though born in Fresno, Calif., in 1875, Dixon became infatuated with the southwest when he first traveled to Arizona and New Mexico in 1900.

His drawings, many of which look more like photographs, are Dixon's personal endeavor to capture the southwest, not only as he saw it, but as it truly looked to many in the early 20th century.

Though most were drawn more than 50 years ago, Dixon's drawings are "more timeless" than other southwestern works," said Alisa Shorr, information specialist at the museum.

This is especially true of Dixon's portraits of American Indians, who are the main subjects in most of both exhibits.

Coined an "indiophile," Dixon was also fascinated with the native peoples of practically every southwestern tribe and drew many with incredible articulation.

Dixon notoriously despised artist colonies, but was close with a few artists, including Hamlin, a muralist and artist Charles Russell.

In addition to some artwork created by them, photographs by his second wife and famed photographer Dorothea Lange are also included in the Hays' exhibit.

One of the most distinguished photos features Dixon himself riding a horse with the desert terrain all around him.

"He's a fun artist because he liked going out into the landscape," Hughes said.

During the latter years of his life, when he was too weak to paint or draw, Dixon also supplemented his art by writing poetry about the southwest.

The Hays' collection, which consists of 46 pieces by Dixon, and the UA's collection, will be on display at the UAMA through April 3 before it heads to Texas.

Tucson is the eighth of nine venues for the exhibit, the final show lands in Texas.

In addition, Arizona State University art history professor Betsy Fahlman will host a faculty talk about Dixon's artwork at the UAMA Feb. 10 from 2 p.m. - 3 p.m.

For the "Rodeo Round Up: Family Arts Day at the Museum," families can take a tour of Dixon's artwork then hear Western fairy tales with local author Susan Lowell on, Feb. 19, 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m. Participants can also join the sing-along with Tom Chambers, a cowboy singer, poet and musician, at 2 p.m.

And finally, Jay Cravath, a North American Indian music scholar, will also host a faculty talk, March 10 from 2 p.m. -3 p.m.

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