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Maynard Dixon: To the Desert Again

Posted: Sunday, January 28, 2007

By: Holly Cline (Expired article)

Los Olivos, CA -

The Wildling Art Museum’s “Free Friday Flick” for February 2 will feature “Maynard Dixon: To the Desert Again,” a new documentary produced by Nancy Green for KUED-TV at the University of Utah.

This 57 minute film profiles the life and art of Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), one of the most influential, yet lesser known, western artists of the early 20th century. The film is being shown in conjunction with the Wildling’s current exhibition, “Painters of the Desert: The Arid West,” which includes some paintings by Dixon, and will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Museum’s administrative offices, 2948 Nojoqui, Suite 4.

According to producer Nancy Green, Dixon’s long, productive life was, in itself, a work of art, “From the beginning, Dixon was different: an authentic, iconoclastic, self-created individual,” she says. “He refused to join any one school of art; instead, he created his own distinctive style.”

Dixon spent months roaming the western mesas, plains and deserts. Yet he created deep friendships with fellow dignitaries such as Ansel Adams. Primarily known for his landscape paintings, Dixon also was an outspoken social critic. With his wife Dorothea Lange, the famous Depression-era photographer, he chronicled victims of the Depression and the social unrest of the times. He felt an affinity with Native Americans, creating powerful portraits reflecting their spiritual nature. Art curator Will South, who is interviewed in the film, notes, “Dixon was a man of the West, not because he painted Western scenes, but because he embraces what the West was and represented: mobility, freedom, possibility and the sense of the infinite.”

The film also includes interviews with Donald J. Hagarty, who wrote the definitive Dixon biography; art dealer Paul Bingham, founder of the Thunderbird Foundation, dedicated to the preservation of Maynard Dixon’s legacy and his Mt. Carmel, Utah home; and Daniel Dixon, the son of Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange.

Green and associate producer Joe Prokop traveled to California, New Mexico and Arizona, using high-definition video to show the play of light on the land -- the colors and formations that Dixon brilliantly manipulated to compose his paintings. These images are combined with interviews, archival footage, stylized recreations and Dixon’s own art, poetry and writing to bring to life the spirit of Maynard Dixon. The sounds and images of Southwest come to life through videographer Gary Turnier and audio engineers Kevin Sweet and William Montoya.

The first Friday of each month, the Wildling Art Museum in Los Olivos, a museum devoted to the art of America’s wilderness, screens notable films about nature or art and invites the public to come see them free of charge. The Museum also provides free popcorn and cookies, wine, water and soft drinks. The films are underwritten by a grant from the Valley Foundation. Reservations are not required, but space is limited and seats are available on a first come, first served basis.

For more information or directions, call 688-1082 or consult the Museum’s website,

Image: Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) Navajo Land, 1925. Oil on canvas, 26” x 30”. Private collection.

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