Joseph Yoakum, an avid storyteller, created an account of his life that was as fabulous as the landscapes he drew. He ran away to join the circus while a young teenager, worked for Buffalo Bill, traveled the world, and ended up as valet to John Ringling before serving in France during World War I. After the war, he continued his travels as a sailor, railroad porter, and hobo. In the late 1950s, he and his second wife settled in Chicago, where they ran an ice-cream shop. In 1962, after his wife's death, Yoakum received a divine calling to draw. He enjoyed ten productive years, obsessively creating between fifteen hundred and two thousand drawings, primarily landscapes. Yoakum claimed that he had traveled to every continent except Antarctica, and he presented each landscape as a place he had visited. However, visitors to Yoakum's home reported seeing a Bible, a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, an atlas, and travel books. By offering his drawings for sale in the window of the storefront building where he lived, Yoakum attracted the encouragement of instructors and students from the nearby Art Institute of Chicago.
In Mt. Magazine Point, Yoakum uses fluid lines, drawn with ballpoint pen, and luminous areas of color—crayon, colored pencil, and pastel polished to a sheen with toilet paper—to depict one of his favorite subjects, a serene valley sheltered by thrusting plateaus. Lush greenery and fertile fields lead to a distant vista of sharp-peaked mountains. Swirling gray clouds lend the scene a nervous intensity. Yoakum's remote aerial viewpoint turns his landscape into abstract forms and rhythmic patterns.
Cheryl Rivers, "Mt. Magazine Point in State near Town of Havana Arkansas," in Stacy C. Hollander, American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 390.