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Guide to Life and Literature
ART MAY BE SUBSTANTIVE, but more than being its own excuse for being, it lights up the land it depicts, shows people what is significant, cherishable in their own lives and environments. Thus Peter Hurd of New Mexico has revealed windmills, Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri has elevated mules. Nature may not literally follow art, but human eyes follow art and literature in recognizing nature.
The history of art in the Southwest, if it is ever rightly written, will not bother with the Italian "Holy Families" imported by agent-guided millionaires trying to buy exclusiveness. It will begin with clay (Indian pottery), horse hair (vaquero weaving), hide (vaquero plaiting), and horn (backwoods carving). It will note Navajo sand painting and designs in blankets.
Charles M. Russell's art has been characterized in the chapter on "Range Life." He had to paint, and the Old West was his life. More versatile was his contemporary Frederic Remington, author of Pony Tracks, Crooked Trails, and other books, and prolific illustrator of Owen Wister, Theodore Roosevelt, Alfred Henry Lewis, and numerous other writers of the West. Not so well known as these two, but rising in estimation, was Charles Schreyvogle. He did not write; his best-known pictures are reproduced in a folio entitled My Bunkie and Others. Remington, Russell, and Schreyvogle all did superb sculptoring in bronze. One of the finest pieces of sculpture in the Southwest is "The Seven Mustangs" by A. Phimister Proctor, in front of the Texas Memorial Museum at Austin.
Among contemporary artists, Ross Santee and Will James (died, 1942) have illustrated their own cow country books, some of which are listed under "Range Life" and "Horses." William R. Leigh, author of The Western Pony, is a significant painter of the range. Edward Borein of Santa Barbara, California, has in scores of etchings and a limited amount of book illustrations "documented" many phases of western life. Buck Dunton of Taos illustrated also. His lithographs and paintings of wild animals, trappers, cowboys, and Indians seem secure.
I cannot name and evaluate modern artists of the Southwest. They are many, and the excellence of numbers of them is nationally recognized. Many articles have been written about the artists who during this century have lived around Taos and painted that region of the Southwest. Some of the better-known names are Ernest L. Blumenschein, Oscar Berninghaus, Ward Lockwood, B. J. O. Nordfeldt, Georgia O'Keeffe, Ila McAfee, Barbara Latham Cook, Howard Cook. Artists thrive in Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas as well as in New Mexico. Tom Lea, of El Paso, may be quitting painting and drawing to spend the remainder of his life in writing. Perhaps he himself does not know. Jerry Bywaters, who is at work on the history of art in the Southwest, has about quit producing to direct the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Alexandre Hogue gives his strength to teaching art in Tulsa University. Exhibitions, not commentators, are the revealers of art.
A few books, all expensive, reproduce the art of certain depicters of the West and Southwest. Etchings of the West, by Edward Borein, and The West of Alfred Jacob Miller have been noted in other chapters (consult Index). Other recent art works are: Peter Hurd: Portfolio of Landscapes and Portraits, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1950; Gallery of Western Paintings, edited by Raymond Carlson, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1951 (unsatisfactory reproduction); Frederic Remington, Artist of the Old West, by Harold McCracken, Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1947 (biography and check list with many reproductions); Portrait of the Old West, by Harold McCracken, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1952 (samplings of numerous artists).
In February, 1946, Robert Taft of the University of Kansas began publishing in the Kansas Historical Quarterly chapters, richly illustrated in black and white, in "The Pictorial Record of the Old West." The book to be made from these chapters will have a historical validity missing in most picture books.
The leading literary magazine of the region is the Southwest Review, published quarterly at Southern Methodist University, Dallas. The New Mexico Quarterly, published by the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, the Arizona Quarterly, published by the University of Arizona at Tucson the Colorado Quarterly, published by the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Prairie Schooner, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, are excellent exponents of current writing in the Southwest and West. All these magazines are liberated from provincialism.
Every state in the Southwest has a state historical organization that publishes. The oldest and most productive of these, outside of California, is the Texas State Historical Association, with headquarters at Austin.
A majority of the state histories of the Southwest have been written with the hope of securing an adoption for school use. It would require a blacksnake whip to make most juveniles, or adults either, read these productions, as devoid of picturesqueness, life-blood, and intellectual content as so many concrete slabs. No genuinely humanistic history of the Southwest has ever been printed. There are good factual histories -- and a history not based on facts can't possibly be good -- but the lack of synthesis, of intelligent evaluations, of imagination, of the seeing eye and portraying hand is too evident. The stuff out of which history is woven -- diaries, personal narratives, county histories, chronicles of ranches and trails, etc. -- has been better done than history itself.
Considered scientifically, folklore belongs to science and not to the humanities. When folk and fun are not scienced out of it, it is song and story and in literature is mingled with other ingredients of life and art, as exampled by the folklore in Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In "Indian Culture," "Spanish-Mexican Strains," "Backwoods Life and Humor," "Cowboy Songs," "The Bad Man Tradition," "Bears," "Coyotes," "Negro Folk Songs and Tales," and other chapters of this Guide numerous books charged with folklore have been listed.
The most active state society of its kind in America has been the Texas Folklore Society, with headquarters at the University of Texas, Austin. Volume XXIV of its Publications appeared in 1951, and it has published and distributed other books. Its Publications are now distributed by Southern Methodist University Press in Dallas. J. Frank Dobie, with constant help, was editor from 1922 to 1943, when he resigned. Since 1943 Mody C. Boatright has been editor.
In 1947 the New Mexico Folklore Society began publishing yearly the New Mexico Folklore Record. It is printed by the University of New Mexico Press. The University of Arizona, Tucson, has published several folklore bulletins. The California Folklore Society publishes, through the University of California Press, Berkeley, Western Folklore, a quarterly. In co-operation with the Southeastern Folklore Society, the University of Florida, Gainesville, publishes the Southern Folklore Quarterly. Levette J. Davidson of the University of Denver, author of A Guide to American Folklore, University of Denver Press, 1951, directs the Western Folklore Conference. The Journal of American Folklore has published a good deal from the Southwest and Mexico. The Sociedad Folklorica de Mexico publishes its own Anurio. Between 1929 and 1932, B. A. Botkin, editor of A Treasury of Southern Folklore, 1949, and A Treasury of Western Folklore, 1951 (Crown, New York), brought out four volumes entitled Folk-Say, University of Oklahoma Press. OP. The volumes are significant for literary utilizations of folklore and interpretations of folks.
Museums do not belong to the DAR. Their perspective on the past is constructive. The growing museums in Santa Fe, Tucson, Phoenix, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Denver, and on west into California represent the art, fauna, flora, geology, archeology, occupations, transportation, architecture, and other phases of the Southwest in a way that may be more informing than many printed volumes.
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