Duty, Honor, Art

I generally don't open two exhibits in one month, but September 2016 had other plans, so on Friday the 30th, we opened our latest exhibit, Duty, Honor, Art: The New Mexico Military Institute Collection.

The New Mexico Military Institute is one of Roswell’s oldest and most significant educational institutions. Founded in 1891, NMMI represents the only state-supported military high school and two-year college in the western United States, and its core values are embodied in its motto: “Duty, Honor, Achievement.” The Institute has also played an important role in the history of the Roswell Museum itself, with faculty and alumni helping to organize the Museum, donating works to the collection, and serving as advocates. Two of its most famous alums, Peter Hurd (1904-1984) and Paul Horgan (1903-1995) remain particularly entwined with RMAC's history and identity. Hurd's paintings and lithographs became the basis for the Museum's permanent collection in the late 1940s, while Pulitzer Prize-winning author Horgan became one of the Museum's earliest and most ardent supporters, eventually serving as the first President of the Board of Trustees.

Some views of NMMI's renowned campus.
Yet NMMI also has its own significant collection of art and historical artifacts. Encompassing works created by both faculty and alumni, pieces from prominent southwestern artists such as Laura Gilpin and Kenneth Miller Adams, and examples from international artists, this collection emphasizes the Institute’s ongoing interest and commitment to art as well as education. 

In recognition of NMMI’s 125th anniversary, this exhibit showcases the school’s art collection. There are more than 20 works in the gallery spanning the 20th century, and the show features everything from naturalistic landscapes to more abstract works. It should also be noted that the works on view only represent a fraction of the Institute’s total holdings, and that the majority of the collection can be seen throughout the school’s own campus, located north of RMAC at West College Boulevard.  

Let's take a look at some of these works:

Will James, Bronco Buster, 1921, oil on canvas. Collection of the New Mexico Military Institute.
Originally from Quebec, Will James (1892-1942) relocated to the western United States in 1907, initially working as a cowhand. After spending time in Nevada State Prison for cattle rustling, he concentrated on writing and illustration. Drawing on his experiences as a cowboy, James eventually wrote and illustrated more than twenty western novels and magazine articles. His most famous novel, Smoky the Cowhorse, follows the life of a horse living in the American West during the early twentieth century, and won the Newbery Medal in 1927.

Peter Hurd, Hunting for German Submarines, 1944, watercolor on paper. Collection of the New Mexico Military Institute.
Peter Hurd remains one of NMMI’s most renowned cadets, having attended between 1918 and 1921. Initially intending to pursue a military career, Hurd attended West Point for two years before deciding to concentrate on his art, eventually becoming a pupil of N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), celebrated illustrator of such adventure-driven narratives as Treasure Island and The Last of the Mohicans.

During World War II, Hurd worked for Life magazine as an art correspondent, documenting the Allied effort through his watercolors and egg tempera paintings. Over the course of the war, more than 3,000 NMMI graduates participated in the global conflict, seeing action in all of its theaters. Roswell itself was also highly involved in the war on the domestic front, serving as the site for both the Roswell Army Air Field, later the Walker Air Force Base, and a POW camp for German soldiers from 1943 to 1946. 
Wendell Ott, New Mexico Landscape, n.d., oil on canvas. Collection of the New Mexico Military Institute.

Wendell Ott, New Mexico Landscape V, n.d. oil on canvas. Collection of the New Mexico Military Institute.
Wendell Ott served as Director of RMAC from 1971 through 1986, and helped secure the Museum’s initial accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums. A painter in his own right, Ott also taught art courses at NMMI. His abstract paintings explore the subtle relationships between color, shape, and texture.

Laura Gilpin, Polo, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1930, platinum print on paper. Collection of the New Mexico Military Institute.
A Colorado native, Laura Gilpin formally studied photography in New York before returning to the Southwest to establish her career. She became renowned for her photographic depictions of the southwest landscape and its indigenous people. 

As I've been saying for years, there's a lot more to Roswell than Ufology, and the NMMI campus and  its collection are perfect examples of this town's extensive cultural legacy. If you're in the area, make sure to check out the show, then go take a look at the campus itself.