2018 Archives

SMU Remembers John W. Nieto ’59, Native American Artist and Alumnus

July 13, 2018

DALLAS (SMU) — SMU alumnus and internationally renowned Native American artist John Nieto ’59 passed away on July 12, 2018. Nieto’s distinctive works have been displayed in galleries and public exhibitions throughout the United States and the world, including a solo exhibition in Tokyo.


Two paintings by Nieto hang in the president’s office at SMU. One titled “Fancy Dancer at SMU”, which Nieto donated to the University in 1996 to commemorate the opening of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, celebrates the University’s heritage and the artist’s deep roots in the plains of New Mexico, where Nieto traces his family to the 16th century. The second is an untitled painting of a mustang.

“For two decades visitors, staff and I have enjoyed these magnificent paintings for their beauty and their depiction of the many cultural influences that enrich this region,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said. “We are grateful for this wonderful man and talented artist who focused his creativity on people, cultures and the environment.”

Mr. Nieto earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from SMU. He served on its Board of Trustees from 1992–1996 and on the Meadows School of the Arts Executive Board from 1990–1994. He credited his SMU education for his development as a serious artist known for his artistic vision and technical expertise. Nieto received SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006.

“Mr. Nieto indeed leaves an important footprint on the campus where he honed his artistic vision as a student,” said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “In sharing his influence and work, he leaves a unique legacy of creativity, interpretation and influence.”

In addition to paintings, Nieto’s works include etchings, drawings, bronze sculpture, lithographs and silk-screen prints. In 2010, he published Forces of Color and Spirit (Fresco Fine Art Publications) and was featured in numerous publications throughout his career. In 1982, Nieto presented President Ronald Reagan with “Delegate to the White House”, a painting that hung in the White House throughout his term and now resides in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Ventura, Calif. 

See more of Nieto’s work.


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