Create Art with a Message

Alexandre Hogue was an American artist who often showed the harmful effects of humans on the earth. Hogue’s mother taught him about “Mother Earth” at an early age, and this concept would have a huge impact on his work. In the 1930s, he created art that showed the southwest region of the United States during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

The Dust Bowl was caused by a combination of things. Farmers had cleared most of the grasses that covered the plains in order to farm the land. However, those grasses had always protected the soil from strong winds. Large areas of Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico also experienced severe droughts, or lack of rain, during this time. When the wind blew across the Southern Plains, the plowed dirt on the farms was picked up and blown about. Many people were forced to wear protective masks to prevent them from breathing in the dirt, and farms failed, leading to a shortage of food. Hogue lived in Texas during this time and saw firsthand how the farming practices of humans had damaged the land, and he sought to communicate this message through art.

Look closely at Soil and Subsoil. The water level is low, showing the effects of drought. Cracks in the soil demonstrate how the land has eroded, or washed away. In the distance, you can see green grass and even a rabbit, both signs of life. However, a tangled barbwire fence separates us—the viewers—from the lush green grass and animals. What do you think Alexandre Hogue hoped viewers learned from looking at his painting?

Choose a topic that you feel strongly about. Maybe it’s related to COVID-19, equality, the environment, or something you’d like to see change in your home or community. Get a pencil and paper and start to sketch. What do you want to tell the viewer about your cause? What is your message, and how can you show it through pictures instead of words? Now, create your work of art and share it with us social media using #OKCMOAathome.

Credit: ​Alexandre Hogue (American, 1898–1994) Soil and Subsoil, 1946, Oil on canvas, 36 x 52 in. Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Museum purchase with matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1971.027 © Olivia Hogue Marino & Amalia Marino