Portrait of Unknown Subject
The evolution of abstract photography has primarily been driven by the pioneering explorations of individual artists. For this portrait, Orval Hixon used traditional methods to photograph the human form in a way that emphasized its abstract qualities. In this portrait of an unknown subject, we as viewers are invited to appreciate the ambiguity of abstraction. It is only through close observation that one's eye detects a human form standing alone in a dark space. The eye is drawn to a strongly lit profile and then quickly searches the remainder of the photograph for further clues.
Portrait of Unknown Subject
The addition of a whimsical pointed crown and ruffled white babydoll costume lends a playful lighthearted mood to this portrait of an unknown subject. She stands in ballerina slippers with her left foot on pointe and her right leg extended at a 90 degree angle. Her left hand delicately caresses the ruffles of her costume and she holds her right arm suspended in the air. She smiles at the camera as she appears to emerge from the darkness. Hixon Studio KC MO is signed in the bottom left corner of the photograph.
Portrait of Unknown Vaudevillian Actor with Bolero and Cigarette
A number of Orval Hixon's photographs include figure studies and portraits of unknown vaudevillian performers. This portrait of a young unknown vaudevillian actor is a great example of Hixon's playfulness. The young man stares directly at the viewer. While his facial features and the decoration of the hat are well lit and in detail, his shirt and the strap of the bolero are blurred. The focus appears to be on the eyes, nose, and lips of the young man. Dangling from his well defined lips is a cigarette.
Portrait of Unknown Vaudevillian Actress in Black
This portrait of an unknown vaudevillian actress offers plenty for the eye to explore. A layer of black tulle is draped over her head, creating a loose hood that encloses the rest of her torso. The folds and shadows of the material distort her percieved nude figure beneath while also inciting intrigue. The material does not obscure her face, however, which looks up and away while offering the viewer a profile of her contemplative expression.
Portrait of Unknown Woman
This portrait features an unknown woman looking away from the camera. She has a bob-haircut, wears a string of pearls and an embellished dress. Beading along the swooped neckline mirrors the pearls above, while rows of the same beading radiate out from beneath. The photographer signed "Hixon Studio K.C.M.O." at the bottom center of the photograph.
Portrait of Valeska Suratt Holding Necklace
Valeska Suratt was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. She became known as “The Vampire Woman” on the silent screen and appeared in vaudeville with Billy Gould. She began acting in film after being noticed by producer Edward Edelston. The “flapper age” put an end to her obsolete vampy style resulting in her early retirement from the stage. In this photograph, she wears a black coat over a white satin blouse that billows out from under her coat sleeves. Her headwear rests directly above her eyes, taking the place of her eyebrows and enhancing her direct expression.
Portrait of Valeska Suratt with Chains and Skull
Valeska Suratt was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. She became known as “The Vampire Woman” on the silent screen and appeared in vaudeville with Billy Gould. She began acting on film after being noticed by producer Edward Edelston. The “flapper age” put an end to her obsolete vampy style resulting in her early retirement from the stage. In this full-length portrait, Suratt turns her back to the camera with arms constrained to her side by linked chains. She looks over her shoulder with a slight distressed expression.
Portrait of Valeska Suratt with Lace Head Covering
Valeska was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. She became known as “The Vampire Woman” on the silent screen and appeared in vaudeville with Billy Gould. She began acting on film after being noticed by producer Edward Edelston. The “flapper age” put an end to her obsolete vampy style resulting in her early retirement from the stage. In this portrait, her face is wrapped in a band of black lace that singles out her facial features from the rest of her body, emphasized by the contrasting texture of her smooth skin beneath the lace.
Portrait of Vera Beresford
Vera Beresford was born to two successful performers, Kitty Gordon and Harry Beresford. She appeared in three films including, "Paid In Full" (1919), "A Daughter Of The Old South" (1918) and "The Devine Sacrifice" (1918). She assumes a confident pose in this photograph with gaze turned directly to the camera while she holds a painter's palette to her side. The palette and her voluminous hair mirror each other in form and together frame her face thus emphasizing her striking features.
Portrait of Vivian and Rosetta Duncan
The Duncan Sisters were American actresses and motion picture figures of the 1920s. They were 12 and 14 when they entered vaudeville in 1914. They performed, as the Duncan Sisters, and were noted for their radio personas, “Topsy and Eva”. Later Rosetta and Vivian would find greater success, as a stage duo, with the act “Topsy and Eva”. Rosetta played the part of Topsy. In a contemporary context, this character is viewed as an insensitive role, as the persona was portrayed in blackface. Her older sister Vivian played the more subdued and innocent Eva.
Portrait of Vivian Duncan
Vivian Duncan was an American actress and motion picture figure of the 1920s. She performed with her sisters Rosetta and Evelyn as the Duncan Sisters. Later Rosetta and Vivian would find greater success as a vaudevillian duo with the stage act Topsy and Eva. Rosetta played the role of Topsy. In a contemporary context, this character is viewed as an insensitive role as the persona was portrayed in blackface. Her older sister Vivian played the more subdued and innocent Eva.
Portrait of Wallace Reid
American silent film actor Wallace Reid was referred to as “the screen’s most perfect lover.” Reid born in St. Louis, Missouri, had theatrical roots stemming from both sides of his parentage. Reid’s mother, Bertha Westbrook, was a stage actress, and his father, James Halleck Reid, was a playwright and actor. Reid’s noted good looks and physique allowed his career in front of the cameras to flourish. Though happy to be an on-screen presence, Reid was just as comfortable behind the scenes as writer, cameraman and director.
Portrait of Warner Gault
Warner Gault was a theater and film actor during the vaudevillian era. Gault is best known for his roles in the 1912 operatic comedy including: “The Merry Countess”, the 1915 musical comedy “Stop! Look! Listen!”, the 1919 musical revue “The Greenwich Village Follies”, 1920 musical revue “The Broadway Whirl”, and the 1929 film “My Wife”. In this portrait Gault is fully costumed, wearing a dark Spanish cloak, head scarf and dark cordovan hat. Gault faces the camera with a challenging stare, cigarette dangling from his lips and slight perspiration on his skin.
Portrait of Zaina Curzon
This portrait depicts Zaina Curzon a performance artist from the 1912 "Ziegfeld Follies". Curzon is captured in an intimate pose with her figure filling the entirety of the space. She is dressed with a lace adorned white dressing gown and matching shawl looped in the crook of her left arm. Curzon clasps a small bedside clock to her chest. The expression on her face reflects that of momentary contemplation. Her thick dark hair spills down her back and shoulders. The dark backdrop provides significant contrast to the model as she become more pronounced and almost luminescent.
Portrait of Zoe Barnett
Zoe Barnett was an actress in musical comedies with roles in feature Broadway performances such as "The Debutante" (1914) and "Rose Girl" (1921) among others. She is perhaps most remembered for her leading role in the play "Nobody's Home" (1915) as Miss "Tony" Miller, for which she was commended for her gracefulness, good humor, and clever recitation acts. In this photograph, she holds a bust of a nondescript female figure before her, embodying its expression as her own. Barnett wears a satin head wrap with an ornament centered just above her eyes.
Potrait of Trixie Friganza
Trixie Friganza was born with the name Delia O'Callahan in Grenola, Kansas. She was a comedian with a unique and gentle sense of humor. Trixie was a large woman and often used her weight as a subject of her comedy. In this 1919 photograph, Hixon has manifested the stoic beauty of Trixie as a vaudeville performer. She is dressed in a sateen gown trimmed with fur at the shoulders, wrists, and bottom. Her hat is fur, feather, and trimmed with sateen. Trixie gazes boldly, yet kindly, at the viewer.
President Truman Walking the Independence Square
The photograph depicts the side silhouette of former President Harry S. Truman walking across the street of the Independence Square. The original photograph was taken in 1960. An accompanying plaque dedicates this work as being "presented to R. Crosby Kemper III, in recognition of outstanding leadership and commitment to the Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs." The dedication is dated September 14th, 2006.
Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas, c. 1947
Ansel Adams was a pivotal 20th-century photographer and environmentalist of the American landscape. After extensive travel through the West, Adams developed an eye for the grandeur and beauty of the world around him and used photography as his means for communicating it. His website remembers him as such: "Adams was an unremitting activist for the cause of wilderness and the environment.
Union Station's Holiday Express
This photograph captures the chill and excitement surrounding the winter holidays at Kansas City's Union Station. Here, Kansas City Southern's Holiday Express Train chugs across a snowy rail beneath a neon "Union Station" sign. The train was built from retired railcars in 2001 and transformed into a brightly lit and bright-faced train personified as "Rudy". Each year, Christmas characters populate the train and invite Kansas Citians to take a ride each holiday season.
What the Dinosaurs Did at School
Refe and Susan Tuma are parents of four from the Kansas City area. Inspired by the imagined lives of their children's' toy dinosaurs, they began a series of children's books documenting the antics of dinosaurs in various situations, producing titles such as "What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night" and "What the Dinosaurs Did at School" for which this photograph was taken. The Tumas' stage intricate scenes using the dinosaurs and photograph them in meticulous detail to generate imagery for the books.