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The fashioning of identity in the art of James Magee: Sculptor, poet, painter, architect.

The fashioning of identity in the art of James Magee: Sculptor, poet, painter, architect.

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This dissertation describes and analyzes the life and work of James Magee, an understudied but important American painter, poet, architect, and sculptor, who uniquely challenges the idea of the artist as having a singular identity. He does so through the introduction of fictive dual-gendered identities and by mixing art forms such as poetry and sculpture with narrative and spatial forms that do not correspond. The most distinctive of his alter-egos is Annabel Livermore, a spinster and painter of landscapes from Newaygo County, Michigan. Magee has added Horace Mayfield, an "out" artist, whose media vary from watercolors to paint on transparent plastic. The dissertation proceeds chronologically and describes Magee's early history in Fremont, his experiences with a first teacher of drawing and crafts, and the culture of his industrious Protestant family. It continues with his education at Alma College, an apprenticeship to an American sculptor in Paris, and his initiating a life-long association with two Trappist monks in France. Magee next pursued odd jobs in New York and commenced to produce sculpture and installation art. While in New York he frequented The Piers and also downtown clubs such as the Mineshaft. His activities on The Piers, his work for Tommy Koh at the UN and for Tom Brown, Inc. in the oil fields of Texas provide inspiration for the design of the Floor Piece, a significant sculpture that is installed on The Hill, an architectural complex in the Chihuahuan Desert. It is, in fact, Magee's need for space or "oxygen" for the large Floor Piece that instigates his move from New York to El Paso in 1981. The dissertation discusses thirty years of work accomplished by Magee in four media: sculpture, poetry, painting, and architecture. This includes a view of early installation art, Magee's relief sculpture, his poetry, paintings by Annabel Livermore and paper art by Horace Mayfield. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of The Hill, its architecture and installations.