Rita DeWitt: Pretty Miss Smiles and Dan Rice: The Clearing

Shown concurrently in the
Samuel H. Marshall & Donald Winston Gallery 
March 24 - July 30, 2023

Rita DeWitt: Pretty Miss Smiles

Rita DeWitt was born in 1948 in Covington, Kentucky. She earned her BFA in 1970 and MFA in 1972 from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Her educational career included teaching at the University of Southern Mississippi from 1977 to 1989, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1987 to 1989, and Rhode Island School of Design intermittently between 1989 and 1996. 

DeWitt was Roswell Artist-in-Residence 1984-1985. When applying to the residency, DeWitt wrote in her statement of intent, “I have always been prolific and have developed a strong visual vocabulary. My strengths include a love of vivid color, a rich sense of design, a flair for blending image with language, inventiveness, humor, and a divergent approach to visual solutions... As a woman artist working in the South, I have developed an intense commitment and an ability to work in relative isolation. I like community as I come from a large family. I value camaraderie and debate over methods and ideas.”

In the introductory essay for the catalog of DeWitt’s 1985 solo exhibition entitled Dissolve Differences here at the Roswell Museum, photographer and writer April Rapier wrote “her vision grows in concentric circles, she moves in all directions. To define any aspect of the imagery leads the viewer at once in other directions, perhaps of DeWitt’s choosing, often not... There is great peace to be found. No question, however painful, is left unasked, no emotion or memory unremarked upon... In part, every piece is a portrait of the joy and pain of self-discovery... DeWitt makes impossible demands of materials and machines... Historical perceptions, misconceptions and abuses of women are examined... yet the conclusion does not proselytize.”

Dan Rice: The Clearing

Dan Rice was born in 1951 in Portland, Oregon. He earned his BA from Central Washington University in Ellensburg in 1980 and MFA from the University of California, Davis in 1982. Throughout the 1980s he exhibited widely in the United States, ranging from privately owned galleries in Los Angeles, Boston, and Provincetown, Maine to public galleries in Long Beach and Santa Barbara, California and Bozeman, Montana.

Rice was Roswell Artist-in-Residence 1983-1984. The work displayed is one of a series of installations by Rice depicting monumental trucks focusing on some aspect of the apocalypse, from the artist’s perspective. The Clearing is a historical journey through environmental destruction. Beginning with the tractor of this logging truck we move quickly from the pioneer “innocently” clearing the unceded Indigenous land to the trailer’s tumble of houses being cleared by Mother Nature. Rice’s message is clear in this work: strip the land and we strip ourselves of our protection against erosion and flooding. 

In 1985, Roswell Museum Assistant Director William Ebie wrote about this piece “Given the traditional minimal effect of polite, though sometimes urgent, pleading for environmental concern, it is obvious that Dan Rice feels that it’s time to take the gloves off. The scale of The Clearing serves to grab our attention while the roiling imagery holds us long enough to drive the message home. The time for subtlety is past.” Created 40 years ago, it is tragic we haven’t made sufficient progress to curb the effects of human-induced climate change. Sadly, the messages in Rice’s The Clearing are even more urgent now than when the piece was made in the 1980s.

Dan Rice_The Clearing_full_web
Dan Rice_The Clearing_Close-Up_web

Top Images:

Rita DeWitt, Pretty Miss Smiles (detail), 1984, 18 Xerox 6500 Color Copier Images with Texts, Hand-Applied Color on Paper (Edition of 3), June Middleton Estate Fund Purchase.

Bottom Images: 

Dan Rice, The Clearing, 1983, Oil on Masonite on Foam Panels, Gift of the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program.

Dan Rice, The Clearing (detail), 1983, Oil on Masonite on Foam Panels, Gift of the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program.