Alexandre Hogue painted Road to Rhome in 1938 as a reflection and summary of the conditions that led to the Dust Bowl (Figure 1). Through this painting, Hogue points out the delicate changes that would over time tip the balance of nature. The highway in this painting is Texas State Highway 114, which runs from North West Dallas, Texas to the border of New Mexico. An ideal farm with lush pastures and rolling hills is contrasted with a paved highway and deeply carved gullies formed from wind and water erosion. This painting acts as warning to humankind about the consequences of altering the environment. This is Hogue's only Erosion series painting still in a private collection.
Figure 1. Alexandre Hogue, Road to Rhome, 1938, Oil on canvas, Private Collection.
In the book, Alexandre Hogue: An American Visionary, Road to Rhome is not placed in the “The Dust Bowl Era” chapter along with the other Erosion series paintings. In fact, there is no mention of the relationship between Road to Rhome and the Dust Bowl at all. Instead, Kalil talks about Road to Rhome alongside Hogue’s painting Neighbors at the end of the “Taos and Back to Texas” chapter of her book. She explains how these two paintings mark a change in the old way of life as highways cut through once secluded farmland.
This book fails to mention the powerful way Hogue uses Road to Rhome to reveal how man’s intervention set the stage for the Dust Bowl. In Alexandre Hogue: The Erosion Series, Sue Canterbury writes, “these strips of exposed earth are a subtle warning (like the cautionary sign to drivers in the lower left corner) that, if ignored, is done at our own peril.”
Man’s interaction, through highways, fences, and farms, led to the deeply carved erosion seen in this painting and tipped off the delicate cycle of nature. As observers drive down the highway, the eroded and exposed earth act as warning signs just like road signs of caution. Through the tire tracks on the road, Hogue references a car that steered off the road as a result of not seeing a warning sign. The subtle warning signs in the earth around us must be noticed as well before it is too late.
Through Road to Rhome along with Hogue’s other paintings from the Erosion series, Hogue points out how human actions can have deep consequences on the earth. He calls the viewer to see the warning signs around them in order to avoid another Dust Bowl. This painting is a significantly important piece in Hogue’s Erosion series and must be a part of the conversation when talking about the Dust Bowl.
Russell Tether, President
Katherine Hillman, Associate
Russell Tether Fine Arts Associates, LLC