Back at Home December 2009

 Looking for Jimmy-Part IV

A learning experience provided by writing

Shadows on the Mesa-The Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond


“A lie repeated often enough becomes truth.”

                                                     Vladimir Lenin

Hanson Puthuff Superstition Range
Superstition Mountain Range, Arizona by Hanson Puthuff

Since most of the writing for Shadows on the Mesa is finished, I’m currently working on a series of synopsis biographies for a catalog to be published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Kolb Studio next spring.  Thus far it’s been an exercise in learning to treat information found on the internet with great skepticism .

Let’s take Gunnar Widforss and Hanson Puthuff as examples. The two are considered by many to be America’s greatest water colorist and one of California’s greatest landscape artists respectively (see examples at right).  Dozens of biographies can be found on the internet from a variety of sources (many which are well respected in some circles) claiming that 1) Widforss died suddenly of a heart attack while standing on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and 2) Puthuff attended the Chicago Institute of Fine art.

Neither is true.

Gunnar Widforss Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon by Gunnar Widforss

In actuality, Widforss’s death was a lot more dramatic, -evidence that truth is often more fascinating than fiction. But I’m saving the details on the event for Shadows on the Mesa.

So what does any of this have to with Jimmy?  Well nothing really, except that I’m surprised at the relative accuracy of most of the internet bios I can find about Swinnerton.  True, there are few minor errors, mostly related to dates. I.e. many reports indicate he came to southern California for the first time in 1903 when it was actually 1906. Then again maybe this is attributable to most of the rehashed information being obtained from my four page on-line bio about Swinnerton, which comes up number one when the term “James Swinnerton” is Googled.  (Pat Pat Pat….As my father used to say, “Try not to hurt your arm from patting yourself on the back so hard”.)

I guess a larger point I’m trying to make here is the uncertainty and difficulty I face when trying to research some of these artists and the only information to be found anywhere is on the internet.

Did Dwight D. Eisenhower really say “I profited from the experience of seeing how a real artist creates the effects he wants” following a visit to Paul Grimm’s studio? Did Ralph Love, who was also a minister, really play the violin and paint during his sermons? Heck for that matter, did Lenin even make the comment found at the top of the section?   Who knows?  I found it all on the internet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s