Blind Hopi

Artist: Maynard Dixon
Blind Hopi, a painting

Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), Blind Hopi, 1923, oil on canvasboard, 19 ¾ x 15 15/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Herald R. Clark.

Commentary by Whitney Menser
Curatorial Staff

His presence calms. His stately gaze watches, safeguards. Somehow, he is a wise and reassuring presence resolutely surveying the horizon. We don’t know why he watches, and we can’t help but reciprocate his actions. Without knowing it, we are drawn into his strange, ethereal world; similarly we stare. Silently, walking past his portrait, we glance at him as he glares towards the distance. We, in response to his silent face, wonder: why he is alone? What is he thinking? What pain does he remember? For, it seems like pain, which has etched the lines of his face.

His face is the only part of the painting rendered with careful, detailed brushstrokes. The artist carefully chose to leave the body formless. We see, in the loose way Dixon paints the lines of the body, the importance of the face; how, painting it just right makes a piece of the soul stare out of the canvas. This man’s trials in life, sorrow and blindness, are etched into his expression. His eyes, while unseeing, stare into the distance. In his face there is knowledge that comes with hardship. Dixon emphasizes this by leaving the background entirely blank. There is no setting, no specific time of day, and no other person. There is only the blind-man; alone, and ever looking forward towards a horizon he cannot see. He remains stoic and courageous in the face of some unknown adversity. The attention that Dixon gave to this portrait seems careful and respectful. His special care and love for this Hopi shines through.


Selected Sources:

Letter to Dixon from his Father/Godfather. Encourages Dixon in art. Tells about Family. 1 November. 1916. Found in BYU MOA Archives.

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