was to imagine a great figure under the garden. …Many years later when I was researching Taos Indian folkways and religion … I found that these Indians had an identical concept of a great female figure under their fields — the Earth Mother, who is fertilized by the sky father, Po-se-yemo, symbolized by the sun.”
Dust Bowl is less allegorical. A barbed wire fence runs the width of the painting and sticks out among mounds of blown sand. But a break in the fence draws attention to tire tracks that lead one’s eye to a farm — presumably abandoned — silhouetted against a blood-red sky buckled down in the middle by a white-hot sun encircled by a yellow aura. Above the sun is blue sky fast becoming obliterated by the onset of dusk or an approaching dust storm. Either way, the scene is ominous, even surreal.
Those familiar with Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting The Red Hills With Sun (1927) may detect similarities to Hogue’s Dust Bowl. Both paintings have like color schemes, a central placement of the sun, and feature prominent white orbs contained by yellow auras. Whether or not Hogue was aware of O’Keeffe’s earlier work is not known, but both spent time in West Texas — particularly Palo Duro Canyon — where each witnessed such dramatic natural phenomena. For Hogue the locale was “a place where the sun rises and sun sets and the cloud effects are the envy of the world, and where a man is made to feel utterly small and helpless by the Staked Plains.”
Hogue was born in Memphis, Missouri, the youngest and only boy of six children. His formative years were spent in Denton, Texas, where his father was a minister. His mother was an amateur painter and a graduate of the Virginia Female Institute. Its teachers echoed the progressive teachings of John Dewey, who emphasized the use of form and mass over line — a method adopted by Hogue. Following high school in Dallas, Hogue took a correspondence course in commercial art, which led to a one-year scholarship to the Federal School of Commercial Design in Minneapolis, where he also worked at the Bureau of Engraving. During that time he became skilled at lettering and attended a life drawing class at the Minneapolis Institute of Art before moving back to Texas to be near family and seek job opportunities in Dallas.
Between 1921 and 1924, Hogue worked for three design firms in New York. His free time was spent touring museums and galleries, plus studying medieval script styles and Persian calligraphy at the New York Public Library. He also participated in open studio sessions at the Art Students League. Despite being in New York City at a time of remarkable artistic activity and urban growth, Hogue preferred the climate, the colors, and the wide-open-spaces of the Southwest. He accompanied Texas artist Frank Reaugh on summer sketching trips through West Texas from 1921 to 1923. Hogue further fed his Southwest longings, conducting summer art classes at Texas State College for Women in Denton and at the YWCA in Glen Rose near Dallas.
Beginning in 1926, Hogue began his annual sojourns to Taos from Texas and became part of the Taos art community. He mingled with the Taos Society of Artists but never became a member. “Because Hogue’s time in New Mexico was seasonal, he didn’t immerse himself as thoroughly as some Taos Society artists did in the specific landscapes or inhabitants of New Mexico. His was a more general, landscape-based interest in the Southwest, with more focus on Oklahoma and Texas,” said Udall. Nonetheless, Hogue was “an excellent ambassador for the artists of Taos,” states Dean Porter, former director of the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, who was acquainted with the artist. “Basically, [Hogue] brought Dallas to Taos and Taos to Dallas.”