Mesas in Shadow

Artist: Maynard Dixon
Mesas in Shadow, a painting

Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), Mesas in Shadow, 1926, oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 40 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Herald R. Clark.

Commentary by Sarah Dyer
Education Staff, Winter 2013

Mesas In Shadow is a piece filled with life and emotion for me. Whenever I look at it I am reminded of my time as a missionary in the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center Mission (2010-2011). This view of the West that Dixon is depicting is one that I saw everywhere, whether out in the empty desert coming in contact with vultures, coyotes, roadrunners, scorpions, snakes, and javelinas (large tusked wild pigs) or in the city surrounded by poverty, broken homes and heartache. Somehow looking to the sky always brought a comforting feeling. The sky in the West just seemed bigger than anywhere else I had ever seen. I’m not sure if it was because of the lack of mountains hiding its grandeur or because I was on the Lord’s errand and could feel his presence constantly in my life. I always felt an overwhelming feeling of love pierce the core of my heart whenever I looked at the sky.

Dixon’s depiction isn’t one that a person sees and thinks that it is completely realistic, but he shows the landscape to be one that is abstracted and geometric. Some might think that he wasn’t a very talented artist because he did this, but he has captured beautifully the feelings that come from being in the desert. Maynard Dixon knew what the desert looked like, but more importantly he knew what the desert felt like. Whether I was looking at the sunset on my mission and seeing the spectacular array of colors that protruded from the sky, or looking at the sunrise and feeling that Christ must be coming that day because of the vivid sunbursts, there was always a strong sense of God’s loving presence that came from looking at His breath-taking creation.


Click here to read Paul L. Anderson’s response

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