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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dorothea Lange biographer Linda Gordon at the Autry National Center

Today I had the pleasure of finally meeting award-winning author and historian, Linda Gordon. Her most recent book, Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, has received critical acclaim and is featured on the New York Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2009.” Dr. Gordon and I have communicated over the past five years a number of times, as I was researching my film on Maynard Dixon, and his second wife, Dorothea Lange. We interviewed many of the same people and shared years covering similar subjects.

Today's discussion at the Autry National Center focused largely on Lange's emergence as a visual sociologist, recording the impact of economic times with her camera. Dr. Gordon's meticulously researched profile of Dorothea Lange portrays her subject as a complex woman who approached her work with sensitivity and great determination. Indeed, Dorothea Lange lived "A Life Beyond Limits", and this riveting book beautifully details the challenges that she overcame to express her art.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NEVADA MUSEUM OF ART-Thurs. Nov. 19th-6pm

I'm really looking forward to screening at the Nevada Museum of Art next Thursday. John Dixon and his wife Lee hope to join me, weather permitting. We had a great conversation about Maynard Dixon's love of Nevada, his many trips to Carson City and their family trips to Anita Baldwin's cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake. The museum has some fine paintings by Dixon, the one above is titled "Edge of the Amargosa Desert, 1927", and is on display upstairs at the museum.

John will join me for a conversation after the screening of the film. We always share lots of laughs with the audience! I hear that there will be many Dixon experts in attendance, which is always a pleasure for us. We learn that someone grew up with a Dixon painting over their bed, or that their Mother received one as a wedding gift from Maynard. Many wish to comment on Dixon's talent, his palette and extraordinary perspective. It's all wonderful conversation! Maynard was a colorful and witty man, opinionated, with a wicked sense of humor. When these stories emerge, these evenings become great fun!

We hope to visit Lake Tahoe on this trip, and will spend some time at the Tallac historic cabin/museum that still remains on the South Shore. Dixon once produced a brochure for the Tallac resort hotel, which burned years ago. John remembers a summer on the lake with his brother and Imogen Cunningham's twin sons. His most vivid memory is backing into the pot belly stove!

Please join us in Reno if you have a chance. Thursday, Nov. 19th, 6pm- 8pm.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nevada Museum of Art

The film will be screening on Nov. 19th at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno.I'm looking forward to returning to the museum, and conducting a Q&A after the screening and a tour of their great collection of Dixon paintings and drawings.
Lots of calls coming in, dates being set. I'm cutting some material that didn't get into the film for some DVD extras, and a theatrical screening release. Stay in touch. More details coming soon!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Screening this Sat. Aug.1st at Bowers Museum, Santa Ana

There will be a screening of the film this Saturday, August 1st at 1:30pm at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. There are many fascinating exhibits at the museum, including Rembrandt etchings and some remarkable African photographs. I will be speaking after the film and look forward to a great audience.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Outdoor screening in Salt Lake City

It's been a busy summer, after an idyllic vacation in the Pacific Northwest, I flew to Salt Lake City for the first outdoor screening of Maynard Dixon Art and Spirit. The event was hosted by Williams Fine Art, The Salt Lake City Film Center and the UMFA Friends of Utah and Western Art, and Sam and Diane Stewart generously opened their home and glorious gardens for the many guests. That's the State Capitol building just beyond the screen, and when the sky grew dark, the lights from the dome we just breathtaking!

(l) me with Sam and Diane Stewart
(r) me with Clayton Williams, my friend and owner of Williams Fine Art.

This was the first time that the film had been shown outdoors, and I want to thank all the wizards who mastered the technical requirements, they did such a brilliant job. The film looked incredible projected on an inflatable wide screen. It was a beautiful, warm July night, with just enough breeze to keep everyone comfortable. And the sound was perfect! As always, I enjoyed meeting so many Dixon enthusiasts and met some people who attended not knowing very much about Maynard Dixon and his remarkable art. Everyone was enthusiastic and happy to be able to see some of the paintings from the film in the Stewart's impressive collection of art.

There were so many great people that I met during the evening! I was happy to meet Hal Cannon, the founder of the Cowboy Poetry Festival in Elko, Nevada. Now there's a documentary that I'd love to produce! It was also a pleasure to finally meet Geralyn Dreyfous, the director of the Salt Lake City Film Center. She is an award-winning
producer and a dynamic force in the Salt Lake City film scene. I'm very grateful for her efforts to bring this event together with the help of Diane Stewart, Clayton Williams and Donna Poulton. (right, me with Diane Stewart and Geralyn Dreyfous)

The following day, I was enjoying champagne on the patio at Sundance with my friend, Donna Poulton, who is Associate Curator of Utah and Western Art at the University of Utah's Museum of Fine Art. Donna recently co-authored the book, Painter's of Utah's Canyon's and Deserts. Thank you, Donna, for my first visit to Sundance when it wasn't covered with snow. It was just a heavenly day~
This has been a very memorable summer so far, next stop, the Bower's Museum in Orange County on August 1st. The fall schedule is filling up quickly, so stay tuned.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Heart full of thanks to my dear Pally, Daniel Dixon

By now, many have learned about the recent passing of Daniel Dixon.

He was a wonderful steward of his parent's legacy, though he often compained that being the "Child of Giants" was a curse. He felt that he lived in the shadow of the greatness of Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange, but Daniel possessed many of his own talents, having experienced a brilliant career as an advertising executive, political speechwriter and author. He remembered his parents well, and shared many hours with me, which I found very difficult to edit when I was assembling the film. So many stories, vividly recalled and passionately shared by a man who physically resembled his father and aesthetically mirrored his Mother at times. Daniel was complex. Ask anyone.

His quick wit, his rambunctuous laughter and his frequently eloquent turn of a phrase will remain with me for the rest of my life. On occasion, Daniel could be stern with me. He liked to give advice, and was quick to reprimand. He convinced me that my film would benefit from his co-authoring the script, and the truth is, he knew I might have never finished my task if someone didn't insist on setting a deadline! He did that for me, and our script won the Spur Award last year, the oldest literary prize in America. Daniel was very proud of that award, and today, I can't help but smile, remembering how he drove to my home to convince me that we needed to work together on the script.

I feel fortunate to have known him well and I will miss our frequent phone conversations, which often included an unexpected ukelele performance, or a story from long ago, maybe the one about Perry Dilly, the quadrapalegic puppeteer who lived downstairs from his father's studio...I have many of his stories recorded, songs, too, and I'd certainly like to share them with everyone, maybe I'll find a way. Daniel would like that.

By Daniel Dixon (written in 2005)

Back when I was a mere 60 or so, I never even glanced at the obituaries. But now my reading habits have changed. Before I so much as peek at the headlines of the Sports section, I check out the obits.
My interest is in the names, not in the embalmed descriptions of the departed. Most of these notices are crafted by cub reporters or by undertakers, who prepare their text as they might ready a corpse for interment. The results are stiff, cold and without the faintest hint of a heartbeat. In other words – dead meat.
If composed by those same novices and funeral directors, I’m afraid my own obituary would sound just as lifeless.

First: Age, occupation, time and cause of death, date and place of birth.

Second: Family background. Son of two celebrated artists, painter Maynard Dixon and photographer Dorothea Lange.

Third: Professional History. Author of many magazine articles, newspaper columns, a television documentary, and a memoir of his father. Also an advertising executive for several leading national and international agencies. Creator of over 2000 radio and television commercials and the winner of numerous industry awards. Additionally, a political consultant who helped shape campaigns for the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, mayor of New York and Chicago, and President of the United States.

Fourth: Hobbies and Interests. Relished the popular music of the 20's and 30's. Greatly enjoyed cooking.

Fifth: Survivors. His wife Dixie, his daughter Leslie, his younger brother John, one grandson, three stepchildren, one niece, two nephews.

Finally: “It was the wish of the deceased that no memorial services be held.”
“The deceased.” What does any such language, reeking with formaldehyde, tell you about who and what I am – my passions, my prejudices, my quirks, my strengths, my weaknesses? Nothing – not a syllable.

So let’s take a peek at the late Daniel Dixon as suggested in a very different kind of obituary. Only in one respect does it resemble the first. Aside from the imagined date and cause of death, every word of it is true.
Daniel Dixon went to sleep last Sunday and never woke up. It was one of the few peaceful events of his restless life, which lasted 81 years.

Even his mother, the distinguished photographer Dorothea Lange, described her son as “irregular.” He was an incorrigible truant who dropped out of school in the tenth grade to become a wandering delinquent. For several years he ate out of dumpsters and slept in doorways. Once he stole and pawned his mother’s cameras. When he was drafted into the Army just after World War II, he refused to take the oath of allegiance until promised that he woudn’t have to take basic training. Even then, the military coudn't’t keep him in line or on the reservation. Nine of his twelve months in uniform were spent in the stockade. He rose to the rank of private before the Army finally capitulated, allowing him to escape with an honorable discharge.

Mr. Dixon then returned to the streets. Most of his days were spent in public libraries, where he was able to keep warm. He also did a lot of reading, which gave him the implausible notion that he might become a writer. So indeed he did, but not because he especially enjoyed it. He wrote for money, not for pleasure. Of all the material he wrote, a few love letters may be longer remembered that anything he ever published. Perhaps the highlight of his career as a journalist had nothing to do with the byline. He was probably the only man ever to be offered and to turn down the job of picture editor for Playboy Magazine.

Mr. Dixon was guided by several favorite maxims. “Chaste makes waste,” he often declared. He habitually arrived for appointments precisely on time. “Punctuality,” he insisted, “is the courtesy of kings.” But the credo he most often cited expressed his feeling about the splendors and satisfactions contained in a bottle of wine. “The red will never hurt you,” he declared, pouring his guests yet another glass.

Mr. Dixon was an enthusiastic cook. “Beats writing,” he said. “Nobody dares tell you when it’s lousy. He also rejoiced in the company of his ukulele, which he believed had a mind and heart of its own. He was certain that his old comrade would miss him when he was gone, just as he was sure that all computers hated his guts.

Mr. Dixon is survived by a family of certified eccentrics and (at last count) as many friends as enemies. He is only temporarily separated from his wife Dixie, who remains his greatest joy and comfort in or out of this world. Mr. Dixon didn’t know whether or not he believed in God, but he did believe that this marriage would last forever, even after death.

From somewhere out yonder, Mr. Dixon says “Hello!” Nobody there ever says “Goodbye.”
The writing of this autobiobit has been a very instructive experience. Obviously, it’s just a rough first draft. It’s too extreme. It lacks balance. It probably should contain more routine information than it does.

But at least it has a little life. I think that’s important. In or out of the obituaries, I’m not ready to be treated as dead meat.

How about you?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fresno Art Museum

Where to begin? It's just always a great experience to get together with Rondal Partridge and Daniel Dixon. They've been friends for 75 years, imagine! So, they are always a treat to get together with, and we were joined by Rondal's daughter, filmmaker Meg Partridge and Daniel's warm and wonderful wife, Dixie. She has a new CD out- amazing talent. Also on hand, Abe Hays, whose exhibit opening was the main attraction this weekend, as well as the remarkable photographs of Rondal's. The drive to Fresno was beautiful, perfect weather. If you happen to be in Fresno this summer, I highly recommend that you head to the museum to see these exhibits, they are really breathtaking!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FRESNO ART MUSEUM, Sat. 5/30- 1pm and 3pm

Gearing up for the screenings at the FRESNO ART MUSEUM, in the Bonner Auditorium, Sat. 5/30, at 1pm and 3pm. I'm especially looking forward to sharing the microphone with Daniel Dixon, son of Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange. This will be the first time that we've seen each other since we won the Spur Award last year for the script that we wrote together. We'll be taking questions from the audience at the end of the first screening.

I've already written a post about this event below, but they've now added screenings of my friend Meg Partridge's films about her father, Rondal Partridge, on Friday, 5/29 at 4pm. "Pave it and Paint it Green" and "Outta My Light!" are both wonderfully entertaining films filled with Rondal's incredible photography, and an intimate glimpse into his unique world. He's wry and clever and his approach to photography is a pleasure to witness. Meg and Rondal will be on hand for a Q&A after the films, how cool is that? Take my word for it, this is one fascinating, multi-talented family. Their humor and wonderful stories about their adventures and many colorful friends is something you do not want to miss!

All these fun opportunities, and the opening of the wonderful exhibit of A.P. Hays collection of Dixon paintings, drawings and ephemera. This is going to be memorable!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Newport Beach film festival

Catching my breath after the festival, three pretty intense days! Maynard Dixon Art and Spirit was well attended, and I enjoyed meeting lots of great people and hearing their questions about Dixon and the film. I'm humbled by the compliments, and always happy to have the opportunity to share Dixon's beautiful work with new viewers.

It's always fun spending time with my friends and fellow filmmakers, Eric Bricker and Susan Morgan Cooper. Together we met some of the other filmmakers attending, and shared some of the films and parties.

My favorite films both focused on modern architecture. By now, everyone knows how much I love Eric's film about the wonderful photographer, Julius Shulman, responsible for photographing so many remarkable modern houses and buildings. His work introduced Modern architecture to the world, and Eric's film is a richly textured testimony to the importance of this man's legacy and inspiring spirit. Seek out this film, it's wonderful.

Another film that I appreciated was Infinite Space The Architecture of John Lautner.After the screening, we met producers, Sara Sackner and Anna Thomas, and composer, Elliot Goldkind. His haunting music was a wonderful compliment to the phenomenal architecture that he created. Lautner was mentored by Frank Lloyd Wright and had an originality and creative daring that makes this documentary very compelling and vivid.
I highly recommend both of these award-winning films! Now I'm inspired to spend my evenings watching Google Earth instead of television, finding modern architecture around the globe. This is a great tool for someone with my level of curiosity...I'll let you know what I find!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fresno Art Museum May 30th

Upcoming in May
is a screening event at the Fresno Art Museum on Saturday, May 30th, at 1pm and 3pm. Again, this event will accompany the opening of the A.P. Hays exhibit, Space Silence Spirit: Maynard Dixon’s West. Read more about the exhibit and events at the museum website:

Daniel Dixon will be speaking on Friday, May 29th at 3pm, and plans to join me after the film screening on Saturday for what promises to be a lively Q&A, and I plan to bug him to bring his ukelele and croon some of his Hoagy Carmichael tunes for us. With any luck, we'll get Rondal Partridge to stick around and share some of his stories about Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange. Look out! He and Daniel have some pretty ribald tales to tell!

Rondal was an assistant to both Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, and is also the son of photographer Imogen Cunningham. His collection of photographs are timeless and profound, thought provoking and beautiful. A fine exhibit of his work opens at the museum,and Rondal and his daughter, filmmaker Meg Partridge, will be speaking on Friday, May 29th at 4pm, following screenings of two films that Meg co-produced about Rondal's photography.

Please join us for a very memorable day in the city where Maynard Dixon was born and raised!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's next?

This picture was taken in Palm Springs during the film festival, it's me with John Dixon and his wife, Lee. We had such a good time together! Today I'm working on answering emails and invitations to bring the film to India, Paris, Munich, Tokyo, as well as many venues in the U.S. I wanted to write a post to tell everyone what this feels like for me. Bringing Maynard Dixon's story to so many interested audiences is really such a dream come true, and it just keeps getting better.

When I think of all of the doors that have opened for me since I began the film, I am really humbled. And all of the great people that I've met, and the places that I've traveled! I never imagined that I would still be doing this so many years later, but I'm still loving it and still learning. Making a film is a very complex undertaking, and since this was my first, I consider this Filmmaking 101. I made many mistakes, but worked with many generous people who took the time to show me the ropes and forgive me my inexperience.

My passion for Maynard Dixon's art is what kept me going, and still does. Whenever I speak at screenings of the film, I'm so happy to hear how enthusiastic people are about Dixon's art, especially those who weren't familiar with his work prior to seeing the film. I recently received a wonderful email from a guy who has always wanted to make a film, and he said that hearing my story gave him the courage to go for it. I made sure that he understood that I was supported by incredible people who believed in my dream as much as I did, and that I couldn't have finished without them..but what I believe is that if you are fully invested in something that you believe in, people show up. Teachers and fans and scholars appeared in my life to help me to accomplish this task. I ran into John McEuen at a Gram Parson's documentary premiere, and later he offered to compose the music for my film. Diane Keaton invited me to lunch at the Polo Lounge to learn more about what I was producing about her favorite artist. I asked her if she would narrate the film and she vehemently refused- but agreed to record it years later, thankfully! Editor Elen Carysfort bought an Avid system and created an editing studio so that we could work on my film together. How incredible is that?

I'd better get back to answering emails and planning the rest of this year. I'm really looking forward to the travel! I have two films that I am interested in producing, and will keep you all posted as they develop. At the risk of sounding corny, I want to close this by encouraging everyone to believe in their fondest dreams. I think that our beliefs about what's possible for us determine what we manage to achieve, so shouldn't we dream big? Who would have believed that I'd be showing Dixon at the Smithsonian and in Mumbai, India?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sunday, Feb. 1st Screening at the Palm Springs Museum of Art

The film drew great audiences at the Palm Springs International film festival, and received an honorable mention as an audience favorite. John Dixon and I had a lot of fun answering questions from the audience, and he cracked everyone up when asked if he had talent as a painter, like his famous father. "I'm pretty good at walls, but not so hot with ceilings." he quipped.

The Awards Gala was fabulous and star-studded, my favorite introduction was to Dale Chihuly, the remarkable glass sculptor. His work has fascinated me for years, and I was able to speak to him about how much I enjoyed the documentary produced about him, there's much to see on his website:

The festival screened many incredible films, and my friend, Eric Bricker's film, VISUAL ACOUSTICS, The Modernism of Julius Shulman, won the Audience Choice award. By all means, check it out: