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Max Nixon Legacy Metalwork at The White Lotus

Max Nichols, Metalworker

  Welcome to VizCity, KLCC's visual arts program, I'm Terry Way. The White Lotus Gallery here in Eugene is currently exhibiting a show called “Legacy Metalwork” by long time University of Oregon Professor Max Nixon who died 18 years ago. In this wonderful retrospective you can see the diverse imagination and technical skill that Max possessed. I had the good fortune of studying under Max Nixon's always encouraging presence in the late 1980”s.


Max had a small cluttered office within the jewelry studio. In that office he had his jewelers bench, bookshelves, files drawers and stacks and stacks of stuff, but right in the middle of the small room, was the cloud chair. The cloud chair was an old overstuffed arm chair that was draped with a colorful fabric that had big fluffy clouds printed on it. If you had any kind of problem Max would invite you to come sit in the cloud chair. Max on his jewelers stool and you in the chair in that tiny magical office, issues would get talked out, whether they were jewelry related or life related, and sometimes even get solved. But you would be heard. Max was so much more than a metal smith and jeweler.


Broaches by Max Nichols

Then there was the issue of cake. Max liked chocolate cake or carrot cake or really any cake. But his wife, Hattie Mae, who would frequently drift in and out of the jewelry studio, didn't really like him to have sweets. So my wife and I would sneak a cake of some description into the studio, usually on a Friday, and Max and whoever was around would have a slice, always watching the door and hoping we wouldn't get caught in the act by Hattie Mae.


So when you view the exhibit “Legacy Metalwork” at The White Lotus Gallery, keep in mind that each piece of metalwork contains a bit of the cloud chair and chocolate cake. The exhibit runs through November 27th.



White Lotus Gallery is proud to present Max Nixon Legacy Metalwork. Max Nixon (1915-2000) was a professor of Metal Arts and Weaving in the Art Department at the University of Oregon from 1958 until his retirement in 1981. Then, he continued his teaching career as artist-in-residence at the EMU Craft Center till 1992. A mid-century modernist in his metalwork, Nixon employed clean lines and gentle organic curves. He also pioneered the incorporation of different, often recycled, materials in his creation. The exhibit showcases Nixon’s work through the years, including jewelry made for and worn by his wife, Hattie Mae, teaching samples, and one-of-a-kind boxes.  

Born in Haverhill, Kansas, Nixon earned a BFA degree from Kansas University in 1939 and immediately after was awarded WPA funding to create a sculpture to honor the Mennonite farmers in Newton, Kansas. After having taught at the Kansas Art Center for a couple of years and gotten drafted to serve throughout Europe during WWII, Nixon pursued further study in jewelry and metalwork, bookbinding, and weaving at the School for American Craftsmen in Rochester, NY, Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and Mills College in Oakland, California. His teaching took him to Honolulu, Hawaii, and Utica, New York, where he set up a jewelry and metals program at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute.

In 1957, Nixon returned to Eugene, Oregon, where he had taught at the University of Oregon the year prior, to marry Hattie Mae Rhonemus. Then, he began his long tenure at U of O teaching metal arts and weaving. Throughout his career as a professor and then as artist-in-residence at the Craft Center, which Nixon helped establish in 1972, his teaching inspired numerous students and artists. He and Hattie Mae provided additional invaluable services to the University and the Eugene community by giving lectures and volunteering at various museums, executing gifts for retiring Architecture and Allied Art (AAA) faculty, and assembling a 75-year timeline of AAA faculty members. For their lifelong contribution, the couple was jointly honored with the Eugene Arts and Letters Award in 1991. Nixon and Hattie Mae died respectively in 2000 and 2018, and their legacy continues to live on through the lives they touched and the artworks they created.


Terry Way has been hosting Viz City, KLCC's visual arts review program, since 2000. Terry hosts the show with Sandy Brown Jensen.