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Boca Museum Explores the American Southwest

Lindsay Rubin and Stephen Brown

The Southeast is getting a steady dose of the Southwest as the Boca Museum of Art welcomes three new exhibitions this fall. For many South Floridians, the purview of an endlessly flat terrain, tranquil seascapes and coral-tinged stucco facades is somewhat at odds with the American Southwest. To many, it’s a place rust-hued and craggy—miles upon miles of canyons and desert dotted with moisture-conserving trees and cacti, where grand vistas of openness breed personalities as big as the landscapes. While most of this is hyperbole, there is a grain if truth to the matter, a point the museum aims to show from October 8 through December 29 in three exhibitions: "Southwestern Allure: The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony," "Nancy Davidson: Let’er Buck" and "Dulce Pinzón: The Real Story of the Superheroes."

George Wesley Bellows - Santuario de Chimayo - Southwestern Allure: The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony - Boca Museum of Art

George Wesley Bellows (American, 1882-1925)
Santuario de Chimayo, 1917
Oil on canvas, 19 1/8 x 23 1/4 inches
Collection of Judy and Lee Dirks, Santa Fe, New Mexico

   When it comes to the artistic aesthetic of the American Southwest, much of what comes to mind is becuase of to the works of the Santa Fe Art Colony. With the onset of the en plein aire (in open air) painting technique readily used by the impressionists, new technologies blossomed in the art world, allowing artists easier access to the field. Metal paint tubes and the French easel box made it much easier for artists to break free from the studio and get outside, where new techniques and movements began to take shape as the artists strove to capture the intricacies of natural light. These techniques and technologies coincided with the country’s westward expansion, liberating artists to explore as well. The Santa Fe and Taos’ high desert tableaus, temperate clime and unique culture began attracting well-established American artists from all over, creating a colony of likeminded artists in the early part of the twentieth century. "Southwestern Allure: The Allure of the Santa Fe Art Colony" speaks to this art movement that came to define a region and helped usher in a new era of American art.

Edward Hopper - Ranch House, Santa Fe - Southwestern Allure: The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony - Boca Museum of Art

Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967)
Ranch House, Santa Fe, 1925
Watercolor over pencil on paper, 13.75 x 19.75 inches
Williams College Museum of Art, Bequest of Lawrence H. Bloedel, Class of 1923, 77.9.6

   Composed of more than 40 works carefully chosen in partnership with independent curator Valerie Ann Leeds, an independent curator and art historian in American art of this period, "Southwestern Allure" gives a historical perspective, analyzing the development of Santa Fe as an art community between 1915 and 1940. The exhibition not only details and displays work from the artists who had visited Sante Fe but also demonstrates the thread of artistic trends, like realism to modernism, that can be found in each piece of art as the Zeitgeist evolved. "Southwestern Allure" includes works by Gerald Cassidy, Edward Hopper and John Sloan.

On November 4 from 10:30-11:30 a.m., guest curator Dr. Valerie Ann Leeds will host a special lecture, “A Closer Look: Dr. Valerie Ann Leeds on 'Southwestern Allure,'” highlighting the artistic trends applied to Southwestern subject matters by the Santa Fe Art Colony.


In a slight aside from the landscapes and cultural mosaics the Santa Fe artists captured, artist Nancy Davidson tapped into the romanticized version of the West only Hollywood could muster. Pointing to characters like Dorris Day’s Calamity Jane and Butty Hutton’s Annie Oakley as inspiration, Davidson was drawn to these larger-than-life cowgirls because of how they shirked traditional gender roles of women in 1950s America—rowdy and unruly while still maintaining all the glamour of classic Hollywood. "Nancy Davidson: Let’er Buck" is a congruence of pop art, popular culture and feminism by way of the cowgirl through a selection of sculptures, photographs, videos and sound. The coup de grâce of the exhibition is the rather comically large inflatable installation Dustup, an ode to the women of the old west and a critique of today's “super-sized” society.

Nancy Davidson - Dustup detail - installation art - Nancy Davodson: Let'er Buck - Boca Museum of Art

Nancy Davidson (American, born 1943)
Dustup (detail), 2012
Vinyl coated nylon, rope, leather, blowers, sawdust, sandbags, 252 x 192 x 192 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Betty Cunningham Gallery, New York


The final exhibition running from October 8 through December 29 merges photorealism with the fantastic. "Dulce Pinzón: The Real Story of the Superheroes" takes on the notion of the superhero, transferring the virtues from the comic book page onto real-life heroes who quietly toil among us.

Dulce Pinzon - The Real Story of the Superheroes - Boca Museum of Art

Luis Hernandez from the State of Veracruz works in demolition in New York.
He sends $200 a week.

Photo courtesy of Dulce Pinzón

   Photographer Dulce Pinzón’s series “The Real Story of the Superheroes” reimagines the everyday, picturing migrant workers in their jobs dressed as superheroes while working. The counter in appearance in the scenes—the cartoonish costumes stand at odds with the seeming drudgework—speaks to the larger immigrant narrative that links these workers to their native homes.

   Remittances—a transfer of money from a foreign worker back to their home country—have become a huge economic force in the global economy; according to The World Bank, developing nations are expected to receive $414 billion in remittances in 2013, with Mexico receiving an estimated $22 billion alone. This underground economy makes up a remarkable portion of the GDP in some developing nations, and "The Real Story of Superheroes" depicts Central American and Caribbean migrant workers in New York.

   As Pinzón puts it in her artist statement: “The principle objective of this series is to pay homage to these brave and determined men and women that somehow manage, without the help of any supernatural power, to withstand extreme conditions of labor in order to help their families and communities survive and prosper."

Dulce Pinzon - The Real Story of the Superheroes - photo realism - Boca Museum of Art

Bernabe Mendez from the State of Guerrero works as a professional window cleaner in New York.

He sends $500 a month.

Photo courtesy of Dulce Pinzón

   Consisting of 20 photographs, each worker is pictured doing an average day’s work while dressed in a superhero costume: The Incredible Hulk hauls produce as a delivery driver, Thing busts rock with a jackhammer, Spiderman hangs precariously on the side of a building washing windows and Batman rides through Gotham as a taxi driver. The images, at once a little tongue-in-cheek, shine a light on jobs that are so often overlooked yet essential to a functioning economy while offering a glimpse into the worlds of the men and women who make up this workforce. Along with the photograph, the name, hometown, profession and weekly remittance are listed—some sending home as much as $800 a week—giving viewers an understanding of the migrant worker narrative.

  • The Boca Museum of Art will display "Southwestern Allure: The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony," "Nancy Davidson: Let’er Buck" and "Dulce Pinzón: The Real Story of the Superheroes" from October 8 through December 29.
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January 2017