As a boy in 1917, Alexandre Hogue worked on a Texas panhandle ranch, hearing the locals warn, “If you plow up the land, it will blow away.”
Hogue left Texas, spent a year studying at the Minneapolis College of Art, and went on to New York. When he returned to paint in Texas, he watched the old ranchers’ parching prophecy come true. “Suitcase farmers” had heedlessly broken up native grass roots to plant wheat and corn. After years of drought, the land dried into deserts.
Always an independent—not one of the celebrated government-supported artists of his time—Hogue in his works captured environmental destruction in “a scathing denunciation of man’s persistent mistakes.” His critical eye on what we now understand as bad environmental planning made him known as “the artist of the United States Dust Bowl.”
Hogue later studied in Taos, New Mexico, where he described the Southwestern Indian to be an “aesthetic giant—The highly developed art of the Chinese and Japanese is the last word in sophistication, but it is very little more so than the art of our own Pueblo Indians . . .
“Many of our outstanding artists freely admit that they have gained much by their contact with the Indian. Others who are less sincere have stolen their ideas in painting as well as sculpture, from the Indian and native African art. Then they call themselves modernists and claim they have no tradition.”
Hogue was a full professor and eventually Chairman of the Art Department at the University of Tulsa. On his retirement in 1963, the University established the Alexandre Hogue Gallery in his honor.