Oral history interview with Otis Dozier, 1965 June 10

Dozier, Otis , b. 1904 d. 1987
Painter, Muralist, Sculptor
Active in Tex.

Size: Sound recordings: 1 sound tape reel ; 7 in.
Transcript: 16 p.

Format: An interview of Jerry Bywaters (06/09/65) conducted by S. Loomis is also on this tape.

Collection Summary: An interview of Otis Dozier conducted 1965 June 10, by Sylvia Loomis, for the Archives of American Art New Deal and the Arts Project.

Biographical/Historical Note: Otis Dozier (1904-1987) was a painter and printmaker from Dallas, Tex.

This interview conducted as part of the Archives of American Art's New Deal and the Arts project, which includes over 400 interviews of artists, administrators, historians, and others involved with the federal government's art programs and the activities of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s.

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Interview Transcript

This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Otis Dozier, 1965 June 10, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Interview with Otis Dozier
Conducted by Sylvia Loomis
In Dallas, Texas
June 10, 1965


Preface

The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Otis Dozier on June 10, 1965. The interview was conducted at Otis Dozier's home in Dallas, Texas by Sylvia Loomis for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Interview

SYLVIA LOOMIS: This is an interview with Otis Dozier, 7019 Dellrose Drive, Dallas, Texas on June 10th, 1965. The interviewer is Mrs. Sylvia Loomis of the Santa Fe office of the Archives of American Art and the subject to be discussed is Mr. Dozier’s participation in the PWAP in the 1930s, and other information about it. But first, Mr. Dozier, would you tell us something about yourself, where you were born and where you received your art education?

OTIS DOZIER: I was born in Forney, Texas, and was mostly self-taught. In late ’37, after I’d done some murals here I was invited to come to Colorado Springs and be an assistant to Boardman Robinson, so I was up there for seven years.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: But before you started work on the project you had just been self-taught?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, self-taught. I went to night school and had some little bit of figure drawing with John Knott, our local cartoonist who was with the Dallas News for many years, and you know having the experience of drawing from a live model was very helpful.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, how did you become in the PWAP, the Public Works of Art Project?

OTIS DOZIER: Well at that period all the artists around here were out of work and an announcement came through the museum to Dr. Ankaney at that time that they wanted to start a project, so he hastily assigned us a project. I believe the first one I did was at Forrest Avenue High School, a mural. He said, “Have some sketches here in the morning,” and we did, but that was much too soon. He was just anxious for us to get to work, and I think the mural is still out there.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Did you work with somebody else on this, or were you alone?

OTIS DOZIER: I was alone on this. I painted each of my murals alone.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: What was the medium, fresco or oil?

OTIS DOZIER: Oil on canvas. The canvas, I believe, was put on the wall and then painted right on to that.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Yes, well Mr. Bywaters, I talked with him yesterday, his was directly on the plaster but still it was not fresco, but a good many of them were oil on canvas and then the canvas was applied to the wall.

OTIS DOZIER: Most of them were oil on canvas. The one I painted at Forrest High was of cotton pickers and I went up and down the scaffold and I thought I never would complete the thing – it was a horrible job. From then on I painted on the canvas on a frame and then later placed them on the wall. That worked out much better.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: How long did it take you to do that one, do you remember?

OTIS DOZIER: I think, possibly two weeks that I painted on this one.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: And how many panels?

OTIS DOZIER: It was just one.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: What did you do after that?

OTIS DOZIER: The next assignment was to do two panels. This was one depicting science, and this and another panel the same size, were given to A and U College.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Where is that in Texas?

OTIS DOZIER: That’s in Bryan, Texas.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: In 1934, it says here, and this was also under the PWAP?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, that’s right.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Did you enter any competitions under the Treasury Department?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, I entered competitions and out of the competition I got this one, that’s in Giddings, Texas, a post office in Giddings, and then I entered another competition in Colorado, Colorado Springs – and they knew I was from Texas with Texas material so they gave me this assignment at Fredericksburg, Texas, post office and then I did one other at Arlington, Texas post office.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: I see this was 1942 so that must have been under the Treasury Department auspices rather than the PWAP which only lasted until the beginning of 1935, it was only a few months, actually.

OTIS DOZIER: I guess these two panels here, and the one I did at Forrest Avenue High School, must have been the only ones, because I know this was done here in Dallas, in the old Santa Fe building. At that time there were lots of vacant rooms and buildings so Don Brown was brought up from Marshall, Texas, and he did a mural and I don’t know where it was placed, I’ve forgotten – and Perry Nichols and I, we did three, and also Xavier Gonzales at the same time. I believe his is in one of the high schools here.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Did you have any supervision while you were doing the murals?

OTIS DOZIER: No, Dr. Ankeney just gave us free reign and he would come up and look it over once in a while to see if we were working, but we were very diligent workers, we stayed on the job and were very pleased to have something to do at that time.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Did these have to be approved by the administrator of the buildings, such as the principle of the high school or the School Board?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, Dr. Ankeney saw to it before the jobs were done by whoever did them, that the schools wanted the murals and they took them.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: So there was no interference?

OTIS DOZIER: No interference, that’s right. Two of these that are at A and M College are done on Masonite and I don’t think they were ever installed. The last I saw, they were in a storeroom at A and M College.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh, you said something about these negatives that were taken – were they from some of your sketches?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes. We had eight by ten negatives made here and they had to be sent in to Mr. Rowan in Washington.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: For approval?

OTIS DOZIER: At first the drawing sketch was sent in and we got approval and then later, when the painting was finished, the negative from that painting was sent in to Washington, so we only have what few photographs are here.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: And you don’t know what happened to those negatives?

OTIS DOZIER: I don’t know what happened to them.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: You were speaking about that before and you suggested that Adolph Dehn knew about them.

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, I understand Adolph Dehn knew something about what happened to some of the sketches, but the negatives, I’m not sure what happened to those, they would be of great value, I think if they’d ever be located.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Yes. Were all of the murals that you did approved in Washington in this way, including these high school murals?

OTIS DOZIER: I think so, but it’s been so long I can’t remember all the details.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, it may have been just those that were done under the Treasury Department needed to be approved in Washington, and the local ones approved locally. Who were the others that were involved during that period in Dallas, your co-workers?

OTIS DOZIER: Parry Nichols did a mural and Xavier Gonzalez did a mural and Don Brown from Marshall, Texas, and Harry Carnahan did some murals, but I don’t think they were ever finished. But later, when he got on the other project –

SYLVIA LOOMIS: WPA?

OTIS DOZIER: WPA, he did some very fine wash drawings that are now in the grade schools of Colorado, excellent things.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well now, this leads me to the big question about Texas and which is, do you know why there was no Federal Art project, no WPA art project, in Texas?

OTIS DOZIER: Well, I heard two stories, one is that Texas was a Democratic state at that time and there was no question that they were ever going Republican so they didn’t have to play politics with the Texans, and another one is that the project was offered to some of the politicians but they said they didn’t want anything connected with damned artists, so they turned it down.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: What did the “damn artist” feel about that?

OTIS DOZIER: Oh, well they didn’t know about it till later, and the felt pretty bad about it because we heard that was going on in other states.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, there were many very exciting projects in a good many states, so I was very curious about why they didn’t have any in Texas, because some of the others I have talked to seemed to need it as much as they did anywhere else.

OTIS DOZIER: That’s right; they needed it as much here as they did anyplace.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: There weren’t as many artists, I suppose, in Texas compared to New Mexico, for instance, which was sort of an artist’ colony, or do you disagree with that?

OTIS DOZIER: No, there were never quite as many here as there would be in an art center, but they were dedicated and they got just as hungry as anyone else.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Mrs. Dozier, would you like to add some comments on the situation in Texas during that period?

MRS DOZIER: I think he’s doing very well, if there’s anything I can remember that he doesn’t I’ll tell you.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, you tell us right out because you’re an artist in your own right and even though you were not involved in the project we’d be glad to know some of your comments. So maybe we’ll have an opportunity to as you a little bit about it later.

MRS DOZIER: I do know these were an extremely independent bunch of men, as proud as Lucifer, and wanted nothing that smacked of …

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Charity or relief or things of that sort?

MRS DOZIER: Relief is the word, and it was to some extent a relief program I understand.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, the WPA was. It was necessary for some of the supervisors and the administrator for the employees to be on relief in order to get jobs, so that I think was one of the unfortunate aspects of this, which did not apply to the PWAP. Those were just artists who needed work, but they did not have to be on relief in order to qualify, so that was the distinction, and I thought perhaps that might the reason why Texas was not involved in the Federal Art Project just because they’d rather starve than to admit that they needed help to that extent.

MRS DOZIER: I know we felt a little that way, and if it had to be relief, we’d get along someway.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, what do you think was the effect of the Federal Art Projects on the general public?

OTIS DOZIER: They seemed to enjoy these murals once they were finished and so on in the high schools, that was about the only opportunity they had to see them and the general public never had an opportunity to see many of them, they didn’t know much about them. They weren’t exhibited in museums or any place like that, but the comments I think, of the few we had, were favorable.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Was there much resistance to it at the beginning, before they were exposed to it?

OTIS DOZIER: No, no resistance.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Were the artists doing anything besides murals that you know of, in the PWAP?

OTIS DOZIER: No, there were just no other jobs.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, some places they had sculpture and even some easel paintings that were done under PWAP and these were put in public buildings, in addition to the murals.

OTIS DOZIER: Oh, I think there were one or two people who did some easel paintings and I believe they were placed in some high school, I’m not sure where they’re located, but these people are not around here anymore, the ones who did those.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: What has been your work since the project days?

OTIS DOZIER: Well, I’ve been painting and teaching since those days. I think those were great days in that they gave us an opportunity to get started, to show what we could do and I think we all felt that way about it. They took us from nothing to something, and after we got started, we found a place teaching in various schools.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Where have you taught?

OTIS DOZIER: I’ve taught at the Fine Arts Center in the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and I’ve also taught at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs. I was there seven years as assistant to Boardman Robinson.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh yes. There was something you said, before we started to record this on tape, about some of the artists in Texas going up to Colorado during the days of the Federal Art Projects?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, Harry Carnahan had no work here and Frank Mechau invited him to come up to Colorado and he got on the project there and did some very fine work and his pieces are now in the schools, grade schools and high schools, of Colorado.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: I see. Were there other artists who did that?

OTIS DOZIER: He’s the only one that I know of.

MRS DOZIER: There were two or three down here who exhibited in local shows but moved on – I don’t know where they went – but they didn’t think the environment was right here, and I’ve forgotten who they were. There was one of them who I remember in particular, who had his degree at Columbia and came here and …

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Did you say the name?

MRS DOZIER: It was something like Snickerburg, but that isn’t the name. He was at Columbia the same time I was. There were only three or four who came here and moved out.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, do you think that the Federal Art Projects gave impetus to the art movement in America?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes it did, I think definitely this is the first important movement. Before that time you never saw pictures in magazines of paintings, and these mural projects were reproduced in Life Magazine. Life Magazine did a great thing by exposing the public to this, they liked them and since then we’ve had art coverage in Life and Time and it’s quite a different world than it was before those days.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Yes and I suppose that’s been reflected in the status of the artist in our society now.

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, I think the artist in America is more acceptable now and in many cases the artist on the project was the only member of the family that had any job during the depression so they had a little more respect for them.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: So it gave status in the community and the family too.

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, that’s right.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: I think it was a wonderful thing that was accomplished during that period. Was there a sort of nucleus of art philosophy or of artists in Dallas before this happened, or was each one more or less individual?

OTIS DOZIER: Well we had a few artists here who had returned to their home state, in particular Harry Carnahan had been in Paris many years and Harry Lawrence had been in Paris. John Douglas hadn’t been in Paris. Well, all the artists who had lived out of state for a number of years, returned because this was the last meal ticket. They had to come home to the family and there were more artists met together and talked about art than there ever have since, and many people still talk about the good old days when the artists got together. We had an Artist’s League and we discussed art problems and technique and things like that and it was very helpful.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: But in spite of this organization of the arts, at that point it still didn’t occur to you to insist on having a Federal Art Project?

OTIS DOZIER: Well, we didn’t know that such a thing existed, you mean the project that was going on in other states?

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Yes.

OTIS DOZIER: Well, we couldn’t by-pass the politicians to get anything so we were kind of helpless in that respect.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, if there’d been very much of a clamor on the part of the artists?

OTIS DOZIER: If there had been enough artists here to clamor we might have had some influence.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: I suppose that also is where the independence came in, that the artists didn’t necessarily want it under those auspices, so it tool the form of working with the Treasury Department where the relief status was not required, it was an open competition. How many of these open competitions did you enter?

OTIS DOZIER: Let’s see…

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Were there any besides the ones you didn’t get?

OTIS DOZIER: I got something out of each competition I entered. I was in Colorado at that time, when I entered most of these and I would try for say, the post office at Middleton, Colorado. I did a number of finished sketches of the mines and I did a great deal of research on mining and went into mines, gold mines and got pictures of all the different types of work, and I think then some of the best sketches I made but out of the competition I got a mural at Fredericksburg, Texas.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh, I see, you didn’t get the one you went after but got another one?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes. They said they needed a mural at Fredericksburg and they knew that I was a Texan and would understand Texan subject matter better than a person from Colorado.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: I was going to ask you about the subject matter for the various murals. What were your instructions in regard to subject matter?

OTIS DOZIER: Well, they asked us to get in touch with the Postmaster of the district and find out what was local industry. I remember I went to Giddings, Texas, and the local industry there was a factory where they processed chickens and it was such a bloody, gory thing. I made a very nice design, I thought, but Washington thought it was just a little too strong for a post office. So they suggested I try a cowboy theme and finally I did a picture of the cowboys receiving the mail at a mailbox out at a ranch and when I installed this at Giddings, Texas (as you know Giddings is mostly German people, and German-speaking people at Giddings haven’t seen a cowboy in fifty years) all I could hear them say was “gootz, gootz” that I could understand in English, but they seemed to like it very much. Texans all like Texas subject matter, whether it belongs to them immediately or not, so it’s been well accepted.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, what was some of the other background information about some of the other murals that you did; these are all interesting and typical of Texas.

OTIS DOZIER: The one I did at Arlington, Texas (Arlington being right out of Fort Worth) it was at first hard to decide what was different from Fort Worth, Dallas, and Arlington, but there was a local nurseryman that got quite a bit of fame for his pecan nursery and since I grew up with pecans I knew something about it, so I decided to depict a family of people gathering pecans, and that’s what I did.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Do you have a picture of that?

OTIS DOZIER: No, I don’t have a picture of it, but I have this – not a very good picture of it.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh, I think that’s very nice. I you’ll let us borrow these photographs long enough to get copies of them, and we will return them to you, because they are all such good photographs and they help to give us a picture of the type of thing that was done in Texas.

OTIS DOZIER: The photographer is still here in business, but he doesn’t have any of the negatives.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh, is that right!

OTIS DOZIER: We had to send in the negatives.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh yes. Well it’s good that we have these prints, at least, as they do give a picture of the type of work you did. Tell us about that religious one there.

OTIS DOZIER: This was done for the Army when they were fighting in Japan, it seems that the Army wanted a changeable altar, one for the Jewish faith, one for the Catholic faith, and one for the Protestant. Boardman Robinson did one of Christ for the Protestant church and I did one of Moses on the mountain, and Edgar Britton did one for the Catholics, I don’t remember exactly what it was. They were quite large, they were about ten by twelve feet or something like that, and they were flown to the front and one group would come in and have a service and then they’d move this picture out and put in the other, all in the same little structure, and I later found some Army many who said the last time he saw this picture was in Korea.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Is that right? It really traveled around. They kept using it?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, they may still be using it for all I know.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well that’s very interesting. I didn’t know that they did that sort of thing, the first time that I’ve heard of it but it was a nice way to use one chapel for the three religions with these different paintings. It says here they went to Camp Hale.

OTIS DOZIER: They went first to Camp Hale, but they moved out very shortly and went overseas.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, are there any other subjects that you remember anything about?

OTIS DOZIER: No, I don’t recall that there was anything particular about the Fredericksburg one, but Fredericksburg, Texas is in the ranch area of West Texas and this is a familiar scene of loading cattle at a railroad stop and something I knew about. I made a lot of drawings preceding the painting.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: This is very nice. What about the ones that you did at the high school? There’s the one you did of science mural, we talked about that on the tape earlier. Was that the one panel –?

OTIS DOZIER: There were two panels, I don’t have a photograph of the other, this was symbolic in science and this is a picture of Harry Carnahan. He posed for me.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh, what was the subject of the other one?

OTIS DOZIER: I was agriculture.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Those were the main subjects taught there?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, agriculture and chemical sciences.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: What are you teaching now?

OTIS DOZIER: I’m teaching painting and drawing at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Did you teach at any other place besides Colorado Springs?

OTIS DOZIER: No, I was guest instructor at Bozeman, Montana, at Montana State College at Bozeman and let’s see …

SYLVIA LOOMIS: When was that?

OTIS DOZIER: I don’t know. I taught one summer at College in Alpine, Texas.

MRS DOZIER: That was between ’46 and ’49 he had those jobs.

OTIS DOZIER: I’ve had offers to teach in many places, but I find it interferes with my painting; I make more progress if I paint in the summer and don’t take any teaching jobs. They wear you down and you don’t get anything accomplished actually for yourself. Since then I’ve had several one man shows here and three one man shows in New York.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Do you have a special gallery there?

OTIS DOZIER: At one time Knoedler in New York and Kraushaar handled my work and Mortimer Levitt, who has gone out of business now, but presently I don’t have a New York dealer. I find that New York is too far away for a Texas painter to ship his paintings and try to keep up with the works up there, since I have a dealer here and he sells about all I can make.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well I suppose there’s an increased interest in Texas in art than there was…

OTIS DOZIER: Oh, a great deal more interest…

SYLVIA LOOMIS: So that you are able to sell paintings here now whereas probably in the early days it was more difficult.

OTIS DOZIER: In the early days I had what I felt were pretty good paintings and I still think they are. I tried to sell them for $75.00 and couldn’t sell them. Well, now I can get a thousand easier than I could get $75.00 in those days.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, that certainly shows there’s been a change in the public attitude toward art and the artist in Texas!

OTIS DOZIER: Well, in Texas General, that’s a show that’s been going for about thirty years. That was started in 1928. It has given the artist an opportunity to show what he can do, and it’s educated the public, I think, a great deal more interest.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Does that appear in the Fine Arts Museum?

OTIS DOZIER: It was a traveling show assembled in Dallas and went to Houston and San Antonio and El Paso. It’s in danger of being stopped, but we think it did a great deal for the artists of this area.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: And where is it shown here in Dallas?

OTIS DOZIER: It’s shown at the Museum of Fine Arts here.

MRS DOZIER: It was an annual show.

OTIS DOZIER: I was an annual show and we got 25 painters today, who are teaching at the universities, who got their first exposure through this exhibit and we have about 25 or 30 who have since been in national shows, and I don’t think this could have happened if it hadn’t been for this annual show that travels over the state.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Are these just Dallas artists or from all over?

OTIS DOZIER: All over the state.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: I see. Approximately how many participate?

OTIS DOZIER: There’s about 150 or 200 who participate each year.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: It speaks well for Texas.

OTIS DOZIER: Sometimes they have as many as 300 paintings entered, but they are always limited to 60 to 80 because of space limitations.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Have Texas artists gone in much for these very new trends?

OTIS DOZIER: Yes, about as much here as anyplace. You see since publication has gotten better, if something comes out in New York we know about it the next week and if it’s interesting, well, the artists experiment, try everything, so artists are very close all over the country now, in what they are doing. In fact, some of the Texas artists like Rauschenberg started down here in Beaumont, Texas and now he’s very famous in New York.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Yes, I know, one of the leaders, I’d say. How do you account for the shift of the art center of the world from Paris to this country?

OTIS DOZIER: It’s partly a combination of things, American s have the money to buy now, probably more than Europeans, and they’re buying and that in turn stimulates the artist to paint more and the more they paint, the more the interest grows. It all works together.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: You think that it might have been stimulated by the work of the Federal Art Project?

OTIS DOZIER: I think it certainly had something to do with it because it gave a number of artists a real opportunity. For the first time in their lives, they could quit whatever little job they had or if they didn’t have a job at all, they could paint and it an artist has a chance to paint for about a year or two years, he may find himself and by that time some dealer may take an interest in him. I think it’s been very very important to give him this opportunity. I don’t think I could have ever become known if I hadn’t had the opportunity to work on the project.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, I certainly think that was the great contribution of the Federal Art Project to the artists in America that it did give them an opportunity to develop at a period when otherwise he would have had to go into something completely different and his talent would have been lost.

OTIS DOZIER: I think that’s happened many times. There is a very vital period of maybe five or ten years and if you don’t get to develop during those years you could get caught into something else. I know so many people who have gone into commercial art and they all say, “Well, when I make some money I’m going to get into fine art,” but they never do. I’ve never known one yet that got back into fine art. In the first place, the type of commercial work that they do tightens them down in their thinking and they never seem to be free anymore.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Yes, and I suppose the money they’re getting isn’t enough so that they can save up and have enough money to live on while they get back into the fine arts field.

OTIS DOZIER: There’s quite a number of us here that art means so much to us it was sort of like a priesthood, we wanted to do it and we sacrificed a great deal to be able to paint and in later years it paid off, because we stayed with it, but I think it’s the general climate of the country that made it possible. Maybe 30 years ago, regardless of how much you sacrificed you still couldn’t have made it because the public wouldn’t buy the pictures.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: There had to be other factors involved.

OTIS DOZIER: Other factors entered in to it.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, are there any other comments that you would like to make about that period?

OTIS DOZIER: Nothing that I can think of in particular.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: How about you, Mrs. Dozier?

MRS DOZIER: We cry in our beer at parties for the good old days but I think that’s because we were young.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well that had a lot to do with it.

MRS DOZIER: We had energy and hope and enthusiasm. I don’t know of any group today that had the same spirit that we had in those days because things have been so much easier for the younger generation and we’re trying very hard to keep it that way so they’ll stay in the arts.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Your work is ceramics is that correct?

MRS DOZIER: Yes, and jewelry.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: I suppose you work in all kinds of metals then?

MRS DOZIER: No, just gold – 24 karat, because other kinds are too hard to handle. My gold things are very delicate. I’ll show you some.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh, I’d love to see some.

MRS DOZIER: It is one of the limitations that begins to creep up on you – when you have arthritis you can’t do what you used to.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, the creative spirit is still there and that’s what is important.

MRS DOZIER: We find our way through and around somehow, through all kinds of impediments, if you really want to work.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: That’s true. That’s the wonderful thing about the spirit of an artist, that he, or she, is determined to create in spite if the difficulties.

MRS DOZIER: It takes determination – a great deal of it – and the good natured patronage of the family who wonders, “What are you doing this for? You might have more luck doing something else.” I’m a craftsman. I’d rather do that than anything ales and if you get paid for it, fine, but if you can’t you’ll do it anyway.

OTIS DOZIER: I’ve only known very few artists who have given up painting entirely, they sometimes have put it off and become Sunday painters. I’ve known one who gave it up and gone into picture framing, but that’s the only one I could say has entirely given up painting.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well I know the stories that I’ve heard of the artists I’ve interviewed and some of the difficulties they’ve had in hanging on.

OTIS DOZIER: It’s about the last thing you can do in our age, this creativeness, really – you’re not involved with other people when you do it. Most everything else is supervised in someway or somehow, or with some kind of limitations, but in painting a picture you’re revealing yourself. You’re on your own.

MRS DOZIER: You’re alone and on your own, doing the best you can.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: You don’t feel the need to follow along the various fads that come up, or do you just do what you want to?

MRS DOZIER: No, I think all artists are interested in what other artists are doing, but to do something good it has to come from your heart, you have to really feel it.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: If you need to do it then you do it, but otherwise you don’t. Well I certainly am grateful to both of you for these comments and for the opportunity to borrow these prints of the murals that you did, Mr. Dozier.

OTIS DOZIER: Well, the only thing is I want them back because I have no way of ever getting negatives so I can’t get any more.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Oh, of course, I know these are very precious, but we are careful about getting the material back to the artist whom we borrow from, because we’re very happy to have these records of the work that was done during that period, because so much of it has been lost and we can only find it from the artists themselves.

OTIS DOZIER: Well, I think you people are doing a wonderful project in getting this together, it’s a pity it wasn’t done a few years ago before so much of it was lost.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, of course, with the war coming immediately after the project, that was the reason, I’m sure, why no general survey was made at the time, but in retrospect it may be even more valuable after 30 years to see just what were the beginnings of it all.

MRS DOZIER: It would be interesting to find out. We made a survey of what happened to a little craft organization here in Dallas and our total contributions were $4000 for the maintenance of the project, and we had $7000 over 15 years for prizes. I think we’ve done remarkably well because it amortizes the shows so it seems to me that sort of thing is interesting and we’d never have known it if we hadn’t been forced to dig out the old catalogs. It took all day, with four or five people working on it. We knew we hadn’t spent much money, but we knew what we had and were very grateful for it. It didn’t come to light until we actually got to digging for some statistics to see what we did have.

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, I think a great deal of very interesting information is going to come out of this survey that we are making, because it is nation-wide and we will find what artists were involved in that period, what’s happened to them since and what has happened to the whole art movement in America. This will all relate to those early days, which I personally feel –

MRS DOZIER: Do you find most of the artists still working, that were on the project?

SYLVIA LOOMIS: Well, it’s hard to know because so many of them have moved, so we don’t know just which ones are continuing and some of them aren’t even alive any more, but a great deal of them on the lists I have are still artists, and after the boost they got at that point, it’s been much easier for them to earn a living at painting, or at teaching, or doing some other phase of art. Well, I’ll thank you both again, very much.

OTIS DOZIER: Thank you very much.

END OF INTERVIEW


This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Otis Dozier, 1965 June 10, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.