By David Mix

Before Walter J Mix Jr. was ever given his first paintbrush, he was on his way to becoming an artist. The only respite from the cramped apartment in 1930’s Chicago, was to be found among the urban vistas, industrial landscapes and shipyards, as seen through a boy’s eyes on a bicycle, a streetcar, and by foot. My father’s musings were set to a backdrop where bustling shop owners filled window displays with fresh foods and the latest styles; sharing walls with shoe repair shops, the five and dime and the newsstand, the people of the city sidewalks were an endless march of sight, smell, sound, and feeling. Factory workers, bartenders and barbers passed where boys playing marbles or other primitive games dreamed in a menajerie of endless mischief through the bizarre and beautiful.

Underlying a droning sea of movement remained the ever-present din of cultures converging and sharing the space. What was a pleasant custom on one city block, might be cursed on another. The architecture of life both physical and relative rose and fell in all its splendor and horror through the subtle inferences and innuendo found in those human industrial conditions. In this setting one’s awareness or cleverness could literally be the difference between fortune and disgrace or life and death, as my father loved to warn me “in the city, there is the quick, and the dead.” The observer was constantly faced with the hostile and benevolent, a world full of confusion, resolution and contradiction.

I believe this is what my father lived to communicate through his work, not only through the representation of figures, scenes or landscapes, but the sublime and austere essence of what existed or was occurring beyond the apparent. To see the monkey and the organ grinder on those streets without seeing the crowd, smoke, and bustle was to overlook the sum of movement and collective feeling. When Dad was given a brush and paints before he reached his teens, there was a world of feeling waiting for a medium through which to communicate the awe, hostility and splendor of the world that surrounded him.

Before my father received any formal training in the arts he had impressed his friends and family, not only with his ability to communicate through representation and drawing, but by what he chose to observe and ultimately communicate. As the years unfolded, the scenes of depression era Chicago became the deserts of the Southwest, scenes on the streets of Long Beach during World War II and shipyards of Newport Rhode Island, where he himself served in the Navy during the Korean War. When, at last, he settled with his wife in the orange groves of Claremont to pursue his MFA at the Claremont Graduate School, the country was perched at the edge of a cultural revolution. As the nation struggled to find itself during he 60’s, my father was looking back to his European origins for answers; there the young family would eventually spend years at a time.

My own interpretation of my father’s city scapes is that he was living through his work, a homecoming of sorts; a journey of truth and discovery in the communal human dignity he felt amongst the cultures that existed in the angular regions we share and inhabit. Ever fearless and contrary, my father’s series based around the crucifixion conveys the humble courage of that event, and the bird series is the synthesis: the artificial and the natural, the soft and the harsh, the human and the animal, the solitary and that which longs for the other.