417. Daedayl

A resident of Mason County for 55 years, Manierre Dawson is remembered by local residents as a fruit farmer, but art historians consider him to be America's first abstract artist. His style predates that of more well-known painters such as Braque and Kandinsky, and he was one of the first to develop a cubist style, experimenting with flattened shapes well before Picasso.

Born in Chicago in 1887, Dawson spent childhood summers with his family at their farm in nearby Riverton Township. He studied civil engineering at the Armour Institute of Technology which introduced him to abstract principles that influenced his nonrepresentational artistic style.

This bronze sculpture, Daedayl, is a replica of one of a series of composite wood sculptures begun by Dawson in 1948. Dawson took the title from the name "Daedalus," the character in Greek mythology who was employed by the king of Crete as an architect, engineer, and artist.

Dawson shared the same artistic path as Daedalus, and personal similarities as well. The Daedalus myth tells the story of his son, Icarus, who, with a pair of wings made of feathers and wax, flew so close to the sun that the wax melted and he fell to his death. In June 1942, Dawson's only son, Gerald, an Army Air Corps lieutenant, became Mason County's first casualty of World War II when the plane he was piloting crashed in Panama.

Dawson's work is in permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and New York's Museum of Modem Art among others. Dawson died in Florida in 1969.