"Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public"
—R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, 1969 internal memo
"The Treachery of Images" ("Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is French for "This is not a pipe.")
—Rene Magritte, 1929 painting
"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself,
I am large, I contain multitudes." -Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
The Nvorczk series is one of the most puzzling in the history of American Art. It appears to be the work of a Russian expressionist named Nvorczk when in reality the artist responsible for these images was America's own Maynard Dixon.
MAYNARD DIXON (1875-1947)
Maynard Dixon is one of the Southwest's most celebrated artists. His career overlapped many significant developments in the history of modern art. Many qualities of these modern movements show through in his work as it evolved over the course of his career.
Dixon painted around 60 of these mysterious images between 1917 and 1934, but never showed them to anyone. Susan Bingham, cofounder of the Thunderbird Foundation and friend of Dixon's widow, Edith Hamblin, says, "The abstract paintings Dixon produced with the signature Nvorczk were never meant to see the light of day. They were an expression of a time when Dixon was experiencing depression and difficult personal times, the reason he never signed his own name. After Edith Hamlin Dixon's death these pieces were discovered and offered in the public marketplace through a family member."
Dixon is famous for his tranquil paintings of the people and landscape of the American Southwest. This series flies in direct contrast to Dixon's familiar style and subject matter; it shows just how complex the man really was. Below are paintings more typical of Dixon's style.
To learn about the Nvorczk series go to nvorczk.com
Maynard Dixon Country, an annual gathering of artists, collectors, community, and friends who love art and the world of Maynard Dixon, will be held August 21-23 2015. Go to thunderbirdfoundation.org for more information.
Kris Kuksi is one of my new favorites, not only for his mind boggling work, but for his diversity of interests. He's really hit it with these assemblages, they're like nothing I've ever seen before. But he has other diverse interests that show he refuses to put himself in a box. They range from colorful paintings of see-through cows to photorealistic paintings of flowers. I love that these images are all by the same artist. Click to see more of Kris's work.
3 Paintings by Mark Rothko
3 Paintings by Richard Diebenkorn
3 Paintings by Georgia O'keeffe
Understanding an artist's style is key to understanding the history of the art world, but it can also be a very misleading practice. Just when you thought you had pinned down the notable styles of the most important artists in your art history class in high school or college. Think again.
Here's a new perspective on style: Consider the careers and work of some of the most important painters in the last century: Georgia O'Keeffe, Richard Deibenkorn, Willem De Kooning, Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Maynard Dixon, Claude Monet, Alexander Calder, Piet Mondrian, and Robert Motherwell. There are many others, but these artists are great examples of individuals whose work evolved dramatically over time. In their minds, consistency was another word for creative stagnation. These artists are important because of their unceasing pursuit of a creative vision. They valued artistic freedom over commercial success.
Can you imagine if Vincent VanGoh painted sunflowers his whole life? Or if Claude Monet never got past his charicatures? Granted, in retrospect, these artists had common threads unifying most if not all of their artistic labors. But those threads of style were never contrived; nor were they planned. They were never based on a specific motif or brush stroke. Their style was always a natural consequence of their artistic journey, of being true to themselves and living in the moment.
Like the tracks of a coyote zigzagging around patches of sage and juniper. Style should never be the trail that you follow, but the tracks you leave behind.
The images below show how three of the greatest painters explored the coninuum of representation. On the left are representational paintings, on the right are abstract paintings, in the middle are pieces that cross between the two ends of the continuum. In some cases the abstract works are non-objective, meaning no subject other than color, line, shape, etc.