A Journal of Gary Fillmore's wanderings on the Colorado Plateau -and beyond.
Where were they then?
No, not “Where are they now?” Not a single artist showcased below is still with us.
So the question is, “Where were they then?” “Then” being when they were painting the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.
Several years ago I was fortunate enough to help assemble and curate the Picerne Collection of Arizona Landmark Art. From the beginning David Picerne, the owner, wanted to amass the premier collection of Pre-World War II Arizona landmark art. Thanks primarily to Mr. Picerne’s vision and financial resources, my “gopherism”, and help from many of our friends in the Southwestern/Western art world we succeeded.
One of the many things I learned while working on the project was prior to 1930 the most frequently painted landmark in Arizona (after the Grand Canyon, of course) was the Superstition Mountains. While it may seem surprising, one only has to consider how difficult travel was in the territory/state before the development of paved roads. To paint the Superstitions back then, an artist could take the train to Phoenix and head east via horseback, foot, or Ford Model A for five to twenty miles across flat, open desert. Once the desired location was determined he or she could then set up the easel and get to work.
By contrast, it was a three to six day horseback ride after de-training from the nearest train station just to get to places like Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly. Even Oak Creek Canyon (Sedona), which Hanson Puthuff claimed was the most beautiful place he’d ever seen, required a ten mile trip from the train station in Flagstaff, then a very difficult descent to reach a workable location.
So while putting together the collection, we located dozens of quality pre-World War II paintings of the Superstitions created by well known artists.
So where were some of the artists when they painted the nearly mile high extinct volcanic peaks that dominate the scenery east of Phoenix? Here’s just a few samples. As you can see some painted literal interpretations while others took artistic license. Still, I think in most cases I was in the general vicinity of where “they were then.”
Welcome! Yá'át'ééh! "Looking for Jimmy" is a compilation of musings, adventures and misadventures by yours truly, an author, art dealer and appraiser.
From 2002 until 2014 I was the owner and operator of the Blue Coyote Gallery in Cave Creek, Arizona. I have also authored five non-fiction books including "All Aboard-The Life and Work of Marjorie Reed" and "Shadows on the Mesa-Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond."
What all of my books have in common is they have taken place entirely or in part on the Colorado Plateau in Arizona -also known as Red Rock Country, Canyon Country, Maynard Dixon Country and Dinétah, or Navajo Country.
To me, it's "Jimmy Swinnerton Country", named after the famed cartoonist and artist who traveled and portrayed the area extensively via cartoons and paintings in the early twentieth century. Hence the name, "Looking for Jimmy."
(If you haven't yet figured out the reason for the name start with my early posts. I'm sure it will become as clear as the sky in the Four Corners region.)
Also, in the mere hope of entertaining the reader, my blog entries are intended to be much lighter (often tongue-in-cheek) than my books. Yet one more reason to title this site after a famous cartoonist.
Update May 2015: I've decided to expand the subject matter to include all of the Southwestern U.S...primarily southern California, Arizona and New Mexico (aka artist Carl Oscar Borg's "Magic Region".)
Photo: Gary Fillmore at the site of the 1860 Candelario massacre. Chuska Mountains, New Mexico. October, 2013. Photo by Vee Browne. View all posts by Gary Fillmore