Mt. Carmel, a small Utah town just a mile from an intersection leading to five national parks and several national monuments, has hosted a celebrated gathering of painters for 17 years called Maynard Dixon Country. Each year as many as 35 artists gather to paint the ravishing countryside, and a few go home with awards. The most coveted prize is the Golden Thunderbird Award, which is awarded by one’s peers. A Texan won this year.
Ron Rencher won the artist’s choice award for his overall body of work completed during the week of painting, which concluded on August 21. “I was extremely honored, and humbled, that my fellow artists chose my group of paintings for the gold medal,” says Rencher. “To be honored in this way by one’s peers is a very high honor indeed. Who better to judge than the artists themselves, based on the technical merits of one’s work?”
The artists participating in the 2015 Maynard Dixon Country event
One of the Maynard Dixon Country paintings done by Gold Medal winner Ron Rencher
The event is sponsored by the Thunderbird Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to “the preservation and maintenance of the Maynard Dixon home and property in Mt. Carmel, Utah.” The primary force behind the foundation is the Paul Bingham family. “The Bingham family, who operate the show and property under the auspices of the Thunderbird Foundation, have devoted themselves to presenting a show of highest quality works produced by a group of top-tier artists of national rank,” says Mark Fehlman, a staff member at Thunderbird. “The show events are relaxed yet engaging, in an atmosphere of music, symposiums, and the bucolic landscape of sandstone mountains and agrarian valley. Anyone who has not attended this show has missed out.”
Kim Lordier accepting the Patron’s Choice Award
Kim Lordier certainly didn’t miss out. She won an award as well: the Patron’s Choice Award. “From the first time I became aware of Maynard Dixon’s work — in 2003, during a workshop with Lorenzo Chavez — I felt an internal desire to explore and paint the world that Dixon brought to canvas,” says Lordier. “Through magazine articles and advertising I heard about Maynard Dixon Country and saw the incredible lineup of artists that attended year after year. The idea of participating in such a prestigious event felt like a bucket list item for me, a ‘someday’ type of thing. Last October I was invited to participate in the Dixon Camp Out, a new show to help raise funds for the Thunderbird Foundation started by Paul and Susan Bingham to help preserve the legacy, studio, and property of Maynard Dixon. I was thrilled to be a part of it! Finally, a chance to stand on the grounds, smell the air, and see the drama that Dixon painted. During that show, Paul Bingham asked if I would be interested in being a part of Maynard Dixon Country. Never thought it would happen to me! I sincerely did not feel worthy of the Patron’s Award. I hadn’t put my dues in, hadn’t spent time getting to know the artists and folks that have made this show the quintessential event that it is. But in reflection, I realize that the Patron’s Award is one of acceptance, of honoring the past and imagining the future. I am humbled, honored, and thankful. Thankful to the artists who welcomed me, thankful to the collectors who voted, and thankful to the Bingham family that has worked so hard to keep the artistic pursuit — whether it be visual, written, or musical— alive for us and the future.”
“Azure Wonderland,” by Kim Lordier
Ron Rencher accepting the Gold Medal Award
This year also included a special new award, the Herald R. Clark Memorial Award, given to Russell Case for his longtime participation in the event. Dr. Herald Clark was a dean at Brigham Young University who established a close relationship with Maynard Dixon in San Francisco during the Depression years. He acquired more than 85 of Dixon’s paintings and established a nationally recognized art collection for BYU.