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Agnes Sims

(1910 - 1990)
Agnes Sims is known for paintings and sculptures inspired by prehistoric rock art of New Mexico. After a visit to New Mexico in 1938, Sims returned to Philadelphia, packed her belongings, and returned to make Santa Fe her permanent home.

Shortly after her arrival, a friend introduced Sims to the Galisteo Basin south of Santa Fe which was dotted with the ruins of prehistoric Indian Pueblos, and home to tens of thousands of ancient petroglyphs. The rock art captivated Sims and became her primary inspiration for the rest of her career. Over the next decade she recorded 3000 petroglyphs in drawings and thousands more in photographs. In 1949 she received a grant from the American Philosophical Society to further her research, and in 1950 she published a portfolio of selected rock at drawings in her monograph, San Cristobal Petroglyphs.

Most of Sims' paintings and sculptures were inspired by petroglyphs, but unlike her documentary drawings, they never were literal copies; rather, she adopted and adapted the two-dimensional representations of people and animal into an art that fit comfortably into the larger world of mid-century modernism. She used simple, idiosyncratic figures to create her own symbolism, the original meanings of the ancient art being mostly lost to the past.