Dean Allen Porter (born 13 June 1939, Gouverneur, New York)
Education: BA, MA, & PhD degrees from State University of New York at Binghamton
Shows as an artist: approximately 40 solo exhibitions
Brief career notes: Dean Porter worked at The Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame as the curator (1966-1974) and Director (1974-1999) and Curator of American Art, 1999-01), and full professor in the Department of Art, Art History and Design, University of Notre Dame (1966-2001).
Dean first visited New Mexico in 1974 and became a frequent visitor and artist to the Land of Enchantment. Over the next 30 plus years, he has lectured on New Mexico and its artists in over 60 museums and universities. Victor Higgins: An American Master (Peregrine Smith Books, Leighton, Utah, 1990) and Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950 (University of Notre Dame, IN, 1999) are among his most important publications.
He was born in Gouverneur, a small town in Northern New York, twenty-five miles from Ogdensburg, the birthplace of Frederic Remington. From childhood he was interested in the West and art. Both of his parents taught him about art. His father, Arnold, Gouverneur's chief of police, entertained him for hours, drawing trucks, steam shovels, tanker trucks, etc. His mother, Gertrude, an employee with the W. T. Grant Company, had talent as an artist, but was too modest to share her skills with her son.
Kenneth Lindsay, professor of art at Harpur College, the only liberal arts unit in the State University of New York system, discovered Porter and encouraged him to go into art in 1957. Porter never looked back, declaring his major as a freshman. During his second year, he took classes with Irving Zupnick, a brilliant art historian, a good artist and teacher. He also encouraged Porter to pursue a career in art. After receiving a masters degree in art history in 1966, he convinced Porter to accept the position of curator in the University of Notre Dame's Art Gallery.
His curatorial office was located next to the Art Department's print making studio. During the summer of 1967, a class in block printing was being taught. At the time, Porter was teaching Northern Renaissance and had great admiration for the woodcuts of Martin Schöngauer and
Albrecht Dürer. One of the nuns told him to buy a set of Miller Falls cutting tools, a brayer, block printers ink, and Goyu paper. That evening, Porter cut his first block St. George and the Dragon. From 1967 to 1974, created a large group of woodcuts inspired by the courses he was teaching in early Christian, medieval, renaissance and baroque art history. When he taught Northern Renaissance, he created St. Jerome in His Studio, Homage to Albrecht Dürer: The Printer's Studio, and The Cathedral Builders: Homage to Vuillard de Honnecourt. While teaching a course in baroque art, he completed The Tavern Scene: Homage to Adriaen Van Ostade. Porter's career as an artist closely followed what he was teaching in the classroom.
In 1974, he succeeded Reverend Anthony J. Lauck, and was appointed Director of the Notre Dame Art Gallery. Porter made his first trip to New Mexico and immediately began preparing for America's Bi-Centennial celebrationas museum director, professor, and artist. With his woodcuts, Taos, New Mexico and the Bowery in New York City vied for his attention. New Mexico won out.
In 1975, Porter curated Victor Higgins: An Indian Painter Working in Taos, New Mexico. He completely immersed himself in New Mexico, and Higgins's work and other Taos artists provided inspiration for his work. In 1976, Porter enjoyed an exhibition, with catalogue, Woodcuts by Dean Porter, From New York to New Mexico, in the Cuban Museum, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
From 1975 to 1980, Porter focused on construction of a new museum for Notre Dame. He was instrumental in the construction of The Snite Museum of Art which opened in 1980. During his thirty-five years as curator and director of Notre Dame's art museums, the collections grew from 3,000 to over 20,000 objects. During this period of impressive growth, his work as an artist and scholar suffered, and it wasn't until 1986 that he again once again pursued his work as an artist. Interestingly, his work always profitted most when he was working on Victor Higgins, An American Master. He started the book in the mid 1970s, which culminated in 1990 with a book and traveling exhibition.
In 1991, Porter began work on Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950. It was a project that enabled him to return to Taos, the only place he wanted to paint. By 1994, the research was progressing beautifully reaching a strength not previously experienced. Since 1987, he served on the board of the Southwest Art History Council, an association instrumental in his development as a scholar and artist. It was a close group of individuals, dedicated to bringing a greater understanding and appreciation of Southwest art. They succeeded, particularly with the publication of Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950, a team effort.
In 1998, Porter created I Lost My Spoke, a woodcut picturing the famous broken wagon wheel incident that occurred when Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein, began the original art colony in Taos, New Mexico, 4 September 1898.
During the same period, Rena Rosequist invited Porter to join her stable of artists in the Mission Gallery in Taos. Rena honored Porter when she hung his watercolors next to the paintings and graphics of Andrew Dasburg, Doel Reed, and Howard Cook. His exhibition, New Mexico Storm, was more about a passion for New Mexico than about the wonderful storms he had experienced.
At the same time, Rena introduced him to Dallas collector and lawyer Roy Coffee, who wanted an autographed copy of Taos Artists and Their Patrons. He offered Porter the use of the former Ward Lockwood studio on the north rim of the Talpa Ridge. Having a place to paint without fear of trespassing, stomping on alfalfa fields, or getting bitten by stray dogs, enabled Porter to paint in one of the most important places in America, northern New Mexico.
For Porter, art always resulted from life experiences. When he travels, he paints whether it be to New York, Croatia, or New Mexico. To understand Porter and his creations, you have to see his work as a museum professional, professor, and artist.
In 1999, R. Paul Mooney invited Porter to join his gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, and gave him a show of oils. More recently, Porter's work has been represented by Nickol Fine Arts, Mishawaka, Indiana.
In the spring of 2002, Porter retired from all museum work. While he continued to teach a course On Understanding Museums Past, Present and Future, he now devotes his life to doing what he likes most... painting, writing, and lecturing on the art and artists of Taos. In May of 2002, the Brauer Art Museum, Valparaiso (IN) University gave Porter his most important solo show. He also continued, in earnest, to write two books, a stylistic analysis of the works of Victor Higgins and Walter Ufer: Rise and Fall. He is also working as a consultant for several museums.
Porter's work is in the collections of the Tucson Art Museum, Harwood Museum (University of New Mexico, Taos), Panhandle-Plains Art Museum, Canyon, Texas, Art Museum, Syracuse University, Brauer Art Museum, Valparaiso University, and numerous private collections. He has had solo exhibitions in New York: Bodley Gallery; in Taos (Mission Gallery); in South Bend, Indiana Radecki Galleries; Panhandle Plains Museum, Canyon, Texas; Brauer Art Museum, Valparaiso University; Willamette University, among others.