Maynard Dixon: Art And Spirit
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(Jan 01, 2008)
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MAYNARD DIXON: Art and Spirit is a feature length documentary that profiles the breathtaking art and complex life of artist, Maynard Dixon (1875-1946). The desert was Dixon's sanctuary, a timeless place where he could forget the hurried pace of his life in San Francisco. He would often leave his wife and children, his paying work in the city, and his friends in the bohemian art scene for months of solitary searching in the American West. Under the desert stars, Dixon wrote poetry. Under the desert sun, Dixon painted, sketched and drew. His travels took him to the camps and reservations of the Hopi and Navajo, where he was welcomed with reverence for his talent with pencil, crayon and paint. He lived with the Native Americans and his art became a language between two cultures. ''That sense of sun and space and silence - of serenity - of strength and freedom - if I can interpret that with what I can master of technical requirements, I will have reached the best of my endeavor,'' Dixon wrote. Maynard Dixon: Art and Spirit reveals the rich canvas of his life through insightful interviews with his family, friends and members of the art community. Dixon's sons, Daniel and John, share intimate recollections of their parent's complex relationship. Dixon's friends, artists Ray Strong and Milford Zornes, recall the unique character of Maynard Dixon. The film is enriched with over four-hundred Dixon paintings and drawings, portraits of Dixon taken by his lifelong friend, Ansel Adams and family photographs and rare audio by his second wife, celebrated photographer, Dorothea Lange. Dixon biographers, Donald J. Hagerty and Linda Jones Gibbs share their expertise on the personal struggles that Dixon overcame to continue his quest to record the vanishing West. Film locations include Montana, Utah, Arizona, California and New Mexico, bringing Dixon's paintings and drawings to life in the breathtaking panoramas of the land that he loved so deeply.
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This is an extraordinary video documentary about an extraordinary American artist. Jayne McKay's presentation is especially effective for several reasons. First, the video is remarkably rich in presenting visual material. Dixon's art--his oils, his watercolors, his sketches, and his murals--have a distinctive and powerful aesthetic appeal. McKay's inclusion of historical photographs, contemporary photographs, historical video footage, and contemporary video footage all help the viewer better understand the world in which Dixon lived. Second, Diane Keaton and cowboy singer Don Edwards provide professional and compelling narration. Third, Grammy-winner John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band wrote the accompanying soundtrack--one that is both soothing and sublime. Fourth, the documentary includes video interviews with Maynard Dixon's two sons and a granddaughter; these interviews give ART AND SPIRIT an added intimacy and bring the viewer closer to Maynard Dixon himself. Finally, an perhaps most important, MAYNARD DIXON: ART AND SPIRIT is wonderfully successful in presenting not only Maynard Dixon's art, but also in presenting Maynard Dixon the artist, Maynard Dixon the man, and the world--or worlds--in which Maynard Dixon lived.
Although we will never be able to fully understand the Maynard Dixon, this documentary--wonderfully written, visually rich, and emotionally intimate--probably brings us as close as we can hope to get to understanding, in a sublime and romantic sense, his art and spirit.
--Francis Flavin, Washington, D.C.
I have done a fair amount of research on Maynard Dixon and was impressed with the quality
and tone of the dialogue and combination of photos and interviews.
I learned more and got my enthusiasm renewed.
A special thank you to Jayne McKay.