In 1949 the painter Mabel Frazer (1887–1981) applied for, and finally received, promotion to the position of associate professor of art at the University of Utah. Yet, after nearly three decades of diligent service, she witnessed her male peers, often with far fewer bona fides, receive advancement.1 This was the challenge, she acknowledged, of being a “woman in a man's institution.”2 Throughout her career Frazer repeatedly overcame similar challenges and, by so doing, defied and redefined what it meant to be a female artist in Utah. This essay explores one of the significant ways in which Frazer's work stretched gendered conventions. More specifically it focuses on her work in the rugged landscapes of southern Utah and northern Arizona. Working in the West during the 1920s and early 1930s, Frazer fought against the conventions of a woman's place in the arts and the idea that landscape painting was “man's...
“A Tyrannical Grace”: Mabel Frazer, the American West, and the Navigation of a Man's Space
JAMES R. SWENSEN is an associate professor of art history and the history of photography at Brigham Young University. His scholarship focuses on American photography and the visual representation of the American West. He is the author of several works, including In a Rugged Land: Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and the Three Mormon Towns Collaboration, 1953–1954, which received the Juanita Brooks Best Book Award from the Utah Historical Society in 2019. He is a lifetime member of the UHS and the proud father of four skiers.
James R. Swensen; “A Tyrannical Grace”: Mabel Frazer, the American West, and the Navigation of a Man's Space. Utah Historical Quarterly 1 October 2023; 91 (4): 302–314. doi: https://doi.org/10.5406/26428652.91.4.04
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