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The Art of JAMA
June 16, 2015

UntitledOtis Dozier

JAMA. 2015;313(23):2306-2307. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.11807

In this untitled landscape by the American artist Otis Dozier (1904-1987), an arching group of leaf forms is seen in close-up like a still life composition. Most of the leaves appear to be growing from the same base but have different structures: some are pointed, some are wavy, and the longitudinal vein pattern in the brightest leaf is more like a bird’s wing than a botanical. Light appears to emanate from the center of the plant. Dozier often adapted natural forms; in his 1947 serigraph Cactus and Bird, Dozier reconfigured a prickly pear cactus as a complex of cylinders, pyramids, and cones. In the image seen here, the botanical identity of the subject is uncertain, but it was painted in the early years of the Great Depression when Dozier, like many Americans, spent a lot of time thinking about food. The leaves in a sketch from a later period in Dozier’s career—a cutaway view of turnips in the ground—are similar in habit and color to the leaves in this image. Turnips were a cheap and accessible source of nutrition in the hard times of the 1930s. The leaves could be foraged with collards and dandelions and boiled with scraps of pork for flavor. To conserve fuel, a stockpot of turnips and other greens could be hung over a wood fire out of doors. Dozier’s observations and experiences in the Depression years were the subjects of many of his paintings.

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