“I was raised on a ranch in the Dust Bowl and I was there when the dust storm hit…to me, as an artist, it was beautiful in a terrifying way. I painted it for that terrifying beauty.” – Alexandre Hogue
Alexandre Hogue, an American realist painter active from the 1930s until the 1960s, is best remembered for his stark, symbol-laden paintings of the American Plains during the Dust Bowl years. History has attached Hogue to the Dallas Nine—a loose alliance of Dallas-based Regionalist artists active during the 1930s—but his connection with the group is a tenuous one. Unlike his peers, Hogue did not sympathize with the plight of America’s farmers. He refused to find heroism in the plight of the homesteaders who clung stubbornly to their land during the “Dirty Thirties.” He saw them as deserving of their fate.
Hogue was right to attribute the Dust Bowl to humanity’s violation of the natural world. Deep plowing of the Great Plains’ virgin topsoil had displaced the region’s native grasses. When drought struck in the 1930s, there was nothing to fasten the soil to the ground. The farmers were truly the agents of their misfortune.
A substantial body of Alexandre Hogue’s works is currently on display at the Dallas Museum of Art. “Alexandre Hogue: The Erosion Series,” which was unveiled in February and will be on view until June 15, 2014, is the first exhibition exclusively devoted to the series, featuring more than 25 works from private collections and public institutions across the country.
As part of the DMA’s spotlight on Hogue’s ecological agenda, the museum is hosting a discussion by Timothy Egan, the author of the National Book Award-winning chronicle of the Dust Bowl years, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Egan will discuss the land and water conservation issues Hogue explored in his canvases. Just as these issues loom large in Hogue’s art, so too do they predominate in Egan’s book. The author chronicles the experience of living through the Dust Bowl but his work also describes the ways a feckless American government made the Dust Bowl possible—by exterminating the bison and replacing them with cattle, offering cash incentives that encouraged a speculative frenzy on the Plains, stimulating wartime demands for wheat, and promoting a host of unsustainable agricultural practices. It ends by showing how sensible measures adopted by the Roosevelt administration to restore the Plains to health were quietly abandoned in the 1940s, and have been undermined by successive federal agricultural regimes ever since. The Plains may avenge themselves on humankind once again, Egan implies.
Egan’s lecture promises to show that Hogue’s landscapes are not historical relics deserving of veneration; bleak and imbued with an abiding cynicism, they are potent reminders that mistreating nature comes at a cost.
To learn more about this event and get ticket information simply follow this link: http://www.dma.org/programs/arts-letters-live/2014-season-glance