Donor Story


UNM College of Fine Arts Professor Emerita Endows Graduate Scholarship

By Hilary Mayall Jetty

Posted December 11, 2018

Howling Wolf, a Cheyenne warrior from a proud lineage, was also a gifted and prolific artist. He drew and painted elaborate scenes from tribal life on lined ledger paper that he probably obtained from military outposts in the late 1800s. UNM College of Fine Arts (CFA) Professor Emerita Joyce Szabo’s fascination with his art, and that of other Plains and North American Indians, inspired her writings, an illustrious career, and a meaningful gift to the College.

UNM College of Fine Arts Professor Emerita Joyce Szabo.
Photo: Joseph Spenser Lotz

Szabo always rejected the classification of indigenous art forms as primitive. While earning her master’s degree at Vanderbilt University, she was impressed with the way Native American art was completely ingrained in the life of the people. In the late 1970s, only two universities offered doctoral degrees in Native American art, and Szabo chose Albuquerque over Seattle. Dr. J.J. (Jerry) Brody, her dissertation advisor at the CFA, was the first person to receive a PhD in the Department of Art and Art History; in 1983, Szabo became the third.

Brody’s background was anthropology and art, and he directed UNM’s Maxwell Museum for years. His enduring support for her work and career held great significance for Szabo. When she retired from UNM this past June she decided to honor their long professional association by establishing the J.J. Brody Endowment for Scholarship in Native North American Art History. It will support graduate students investigating the artwork of Native Nations in the United States and Canada.

“There is so much to explore, including who influenced whom, and why some cultures developed certain art forms while others did not,” Szabo said. “And there are exciting discoveries, such as when individual artists are recognized, if not by name, at least by their hand, their individual ways of doing things.”

Szabo discovered a rare collection of Howling Wolf’s ledger art at Oberlin College during a brief visit there in the early 1990s. “They were spectacular,” she recalled. “Each page had been protected to keep the color and vibrancy of the drawings alive.” Two years later she brought an exhibition to UNM. “When Jerry came into the gallery,” she recalled, “he said, ‘I had no idea they were so beautiful.’” It was an emotional moment for her.

Szabo’s teaching and scholarly pursuits were diverse within her field, and she helped countless students achieve master and doctoral level success. “Joyce has given so much to UNM over the past 28 years, as a great teacher and colleague,” noted CFA Dean Kymberly Pinder. “She curated many exhibitions at the UNM Art Museum, and always stepped in when needed, serving as chair of the Department of Art and Art History multiple times. I’ve been honored to work with her.”

“One of my greatest joys has been to encourage Native students to learn more about Native American art,” Szabo declared. “Introducing the wide range of creativity by Native people throughout North America is eye-opening for everyone.”

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