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Making the Desert Blossom: The Salt River Valley
AuthorHeslop, Katherine J.
AdvisorStarrs, Paul F.
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"Making The Desert Blossom: The Salt River Valley" analyzes a 1928 mural of the Salt River Valley, a location near Phoenix, Arizona, that was painted by plein aire artist Frank J. MacKenzie. This dramatic painting illustrates the glories and collective experiences found in a productive desert environment reclaimed by intense human handiwork. The Bureau of Reclamation commissioned the mural for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition in Seville, Spain. <italic> Making the Desert Blossom</italic> is by twenty-first century views a paradox, displaying modern reclamation technology, supported by federal subsidies, seeking reinvigoration of the Jeffersonian ideal, bringing yeoman farmers and homemakers to lay claim and settle yet another so-called last frontier in the American West. The American agrarian ideal was never put through a more trying test as it confronted western aridity. Indisputably, irrigation established Phoenix. Amerindian and Anglo culture each exploited the Salt River to solve the environmental challenges of the vast Valley of the Sun. Although one of the most successful Reclamation Service projects, by the 1950s, the Salt River Project had out grown its primary purpose. The Salt River Project therefore, may be considered an intermediate landscape, providing the framework for transforming arid western lands to a modern American urban society.