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Dixon's Poetic Imagination

Dixon Symposium Rapid Recap 6

Alixa Brobbey Reciting a Poem at Poetry Jam

By MOA Student Marketing Assistant Olivia Barney

The concluding session of the MOA’s Maynard Dixon symposium explored the relationship between poetry and painting in the works of Maynard Dixon. Dr. Kenneth Hartvigsen, curator of the Maynard Dixon: Searching for a Home exhibition and Assistant Professor of Art History at Brigham Young University, spoke about the poetic imagination of Maynard Dixon and how his poetry was reflected in his paintings.

Many people resonate with Dixon’s paintings because his use of open geometric shapes, brilliant, contrasting colors, and rich brushstrokes creates a spiritual quality within his works. His art gives viewers an opportunity to contemplate their relationship with the land, with life, and with their creator.

His poetry lends to this opportunity and gives new perspectives to his art because of its emotional intensity. Consider Dixon’s poem, World’s End (1896):

I am a city’s wan unwilling guest;
With three good friends,–a dog, a horse, a gun,–
Would I might wander where the great Southwest
Lies throbbing with pulses of the sun,
And waiting silent with her warm brown breast
Turned up to him; where gray Time for a span
Has dropped the seasons…. She awaits the best
Soul-singing thought of some great silent man.

Dixon wanted to see himself as this great, silent man among the landscape. Significantly, he wrote about this years before he ever had real, first-hand experiences within the southwest. But he felt drawn there. Studying his poetry alongside his art gives us the unique opportunity to understand how he felt, both about the sufferings he saw in life, and the unique emotions he attempted to convey through his art.

This session also featured a student showcase, where selected students at Brigham Young University were invited to share their poetry written in response to their experience viewing Dixon’s works.

More Symposium Rapid Recaps

Picturing the West

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Man vs. Rock

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Dixon, Lange, and Hamlin

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Dixon and Native Peoples

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The World of Maynard Dixon

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