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Exhibit celebrates Maynard Dixon's talents

Dorothea Lange's photographs also on display

Brigham Young University means many things to many people: for some, a faith-based education. For others, a quality football program.

Western-art lovers associate the Church-owned school with Maynard Dixon, the masterful artist of America's Southwest and the trials of the Depression.

Maynard Dixon painted "Mormon Home" in 1940. Dixon and his family sometimes stayed with LDS families during sojourns through rural Utah.
Maynard Dixon painted "Mormon Home" in 1940. Dixon and his family sometimes stayed with LDS families during sojourns through rural Utah. Photo: Courtesy of BYU Museum of Art Photo by

BYU owns the largest Maynard Dixon collection in the country, a broad archive of paintings ranging from his familiar depictions of Indians and rural LDS lifestyles to the struggles of the "Everyman" during the Depression years.

The artist's prolific work can be enjoyed by art lovers and campus visitors in an ongoing major exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art entitled "Escape to Reality: The Western World of Maynard Dixon." The exhibit, found in the museum's Cannon and Lied Galleries, runs through Nov. 3, 2001.

In the summer of 1900, Maynard Dixon journeyed into the Southwest from his native California. It was the first of many trips he would take during his lifetime to sketch and paint in the remote western regions of the country. Throughout his life, Dixon would visit and paint among the Navajo, Hopi, Nez Perce and Kootenai tribes, according to the museum.

Disillusioned with the materialism and other ills of industrial society, Dixon felt he had found a more genuine life in this awe-inspiring environment. The horrors of World War I only served to exacerbate his rejection of the modern world. His trips produced not only landscapes but images of North Americans often depicted in contemplative poses within a natural setting, according to the museum.

"No Place to Go," painted in 1935, captures the hopelessness of the Depression.
"No Place to Go," painted in 1935, captures the hopelessness of the Depression. Photo: Courtesy of BYU Museum of Art Photo by

A sister exhibit at the museum offers the haunting photography of Dixon's second wife, Dorothea Lange. The display, dubbed "Human Documents" includes photographs captured by Lange while under the employ of the Farm Security Administration. Lange documented the conditions of migrant laborers during the Depression. Her "Migrant Mother" is one of the most recognizable and unsettling photos in American photography.

The exhibition examines the roots of Lange's photographic career, specifically the impact of her 15-year marriage to painter Maynard Dixon, as well as the impact of her works as a portrait photographer. These influences contextualized her Depression-era photographs and prepared her for work as a photojournalist in the 1940's and 1950's, according to the museum.

The museum is located on the BYU campus at North Campus Drive and is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday until 9 p.m. and Saturday, noon — 5 p.m.

For more information call the museum at (801) 378-8256.

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