A New Tucson Exhibition Sheds Light on the Lasting Legacy of Maynard Dixon, a Pioneering Artist of the Southwest
Medicine Man Gallery will show Dixon's work alongside that of over 30 contemporary Southwestern artists inspired by his vision.
A child of the American West who was rarely seen without his wide-brimmed hat, Maynard Dixon defined the archetype of the Southwestern artist during the 1920s and ‘30s.
Married to the photographer Dorothea Lange for a time, Dixon traveled the vast and largely untouched landscapes of Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Utah, capturing the local terrain and native inhabitants in the graphically bold, vibrantly hued paintings and drawings that have earned him a reputation as the quintessential artist of the region.
Now, nearly a century later, Along the Distant Mesa: An Homage to Maynard Dixon, a new exhibition at Medicine Man Gallery in Tuscon, is bringing together Dixon’s work with that of over 30 contemporary artists who are in some way shaped by his legacy.
Mark Sublette, the gallery’s founder, says the exhibition was two years in the making. “Dixon’s sheer tenacity to paint the unspoiled desert landscapes and their inhabitants has never gone out of vogue,” he says. “He was one of the first true Western artists, and like the famed photographer Edward Curtis, Dixon dedicated his life to this pursuit.”
Below, Sublette discuss Dixon’s influence on five powerful Southwestern artists working today.
“G. Russell Case finds solace in exploring the back country of his native Utah. His paintings are full of both contemporary and historic references. Case’s fluid brush strokes are reminiscent of Dixon’s, evidence of a clear vision when laying down paint. They also share an interest in the distinctive colors of the Southwest.”
“A native of San Francisco, Dennis Ziemienski is best known as an illustrator, working in his home city and in New York, as did Dixon. I think the strong graphic background of his painting compositions are similar to those seen in many of Dixon’s works.”
“Len Chmiel has spent his life focused on plein air painting and is considered to be one of the greats. He makes small works in nature, then takes them to the studio, as did Dixon, to render larger paintings. Chmiel focuses on the current landscape of the West rather than an idolized past.”
“Josh Elliott’s painting Home of the Blackfeet is an homage to Dixon. Josh hiked to the exact place Maynard Dixon stood over 100 years ago and captured not only the land, but also the changes to the landscape in regard to its native inhabitants. The remains of a teepee on the right on the canvas seems to underscore societal changes, while the natural backdrop remains basically unchanged. Elliott chose to use the same title, even. Dixon’s Home of the Blackfeet resides in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.”
“Not unlike Dixon, Utah artist David Meikle is best known for his large mural paintings. Dixon supported himself producing major murals throughout the country, many of which are still in existence. Meikle takes a literal approach to painting, using a tighter format, but still finds inspiration in many of the same Utah locations as Dixon.”