Drouth Stricken Area
Alexandre Hogue ( American, 1898 - 1994 )
Although Hogue was born in Missouri, his family moved to Denton, Texas, when he was six weeks old. During the 1930s, he taught art in Dallas, and in 1932 he helped found the Dallas Artists League. He was a driving force behind arts advocacy, yet he was one of the few artists of the period who did not work for the WPA. Scorning the Regionalist label, Hogue denied the cheery face of American Scene painting favored by the Federal Arts administrators; more importantly, he refused to ennoble the element of human misery prevalent in so many dust-bowl images. Hogue blamed the region’s problems on man’s inept and thoughtless overcultivation of the land, and viewed the plow as the principal agent of the disaster. In his words, prime grazing lands had been destroyed “first by fence, then by overplowing, now by drought.” Between 1933 and 1936, Hogue worked on a series of six paintings he called his Erosion series, examining variations on this theme. In "Drouth Stricken Area," one of his Erosion paintings, the formerly verdant landscape has been sculpted into sand dunes by the dry, hot wind. Under a searing hot sky, a starving cow waits numbly for water that will not come; perched on the rickety well, an equally patient buzzard awaits the cow’s inevitable death. The only movement in this arid landscape is the dust massing on the horizon, an ominous portent. Hogue deliberately intensified the conditions in his paintings in order to generate empathy within his viewers for the desert-like condition. He called this approach psychoreality. Similar to Stendahl’s Syndrome (in which viewers overcome by a work of art act out the emotions portrayed in the painting or sculpture), Hogue’s psychoreality was meant to draw attention to the actual conditions in the Midwest. Drawings for the emaciated cow and the windmill, also in the Dallas Museum of Art’s collections, affirm the artist’s careful, deliberate abstraction of each component of the painting. In doing so, Hogue sacrificed naturalistic detail in order to achieve the emotional keynote of the landscape.