Friday, October 24, 2014

Day of the Dead

By Laura Orozco Allen | www.wildemeyer.com

It is not a scary holiday. I can say it because I grew up celebrating it. Although I'm from the most northern part of Mexico, my hometown city's customs are a little Americanized and because of it, the typical Mexican traditions from Central and South Mexico are more diluted. But still, it was an important celebration.

As a child it meant my favorite time of the year was here! The air is (or was) full of the toasty smell of burning leaves. The air is cold and is windier there. The leaves walk with you as you go along with the wind... and we walked; my friend Norma and I walked everywhere.


The "Panaderias” (bakeries) would start selling the white sugar skulls, brightly decorated and with names on the forehead. It is fun to find yours and hopefully it is decorated in the colors you like.

Also “El Pan de Muerto” (Day of the Dead bread) would make their once a year appearance for a few weeks. The bread, sweet but a little bland, and is wonderful with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. It is enjoyed in the evenings after a light supper.

Another sign that the "El Dia De Los Muertos" is near, is the flowers you'll see. "Mota De Obispo" is such a strange but beautiful flower. Deep red purple color and velvety to the touch. It looks like the ruffles and folds of a very elegant Spanish dancer dress.

The "Cempasuchitl" or Marigolds is another popular flower for this day. More than their bright orange color, what comes to my mind is their smell. They can fill the air with their aroma in churches and even the cemeteries. You can smell them from far away! In the spring I see them at the nurseries here, and to me, they will always be "Day of the Dead" flowers. Not a bad thing.

The cemeteries are full with visitors (live ones) the weekend before, the week of, and the weekend after. And it's really a celebration. People make it a point to come. Headstones get swept, polished, and even repainted. They are then decorated with flowers and veladoras (candles.) A mariachi band would play in the background or someone might bring a guitar and sing our gone relatives' favorite songs. Since it is an all day event people bring chairs, blankets, food, and drinks! Food vendors pass by saying "Elootess!" (corn on the cob) or it could be "Paleetass!” (ice pops) or something else. The rosary is read and yes, it can be a very sad day especially if it is a recent passing. But with the passing of the years it really becomes a day when you only think of the happy memories. The afternoon would be full of remember when’s…

In college, at La Univerisdad Autonoma De Cd. Juarez, we would have competitions of "Altares." Each group was assigned a different State to represent. This is really how I learned about some of the different traditions and customs each Mexican State has. One of my professors even had a real skull that she would bring for this special evening! While this was an academic assignment, it was a favorite, and looking back it gave me a deeper respect and admiration for this wonderful day!


This year at Wilde Meyer Gallery we are celebrating our first Day of the Dead. I'm very glad to say that none of us has "gone" yet. So we are celebrating our wonderful and beloved pets that are gone now. So come celebrate with us! We will have an Altar and "Ofrendas" with treats for our dogs and cats. And Pan De Muertos and coffee for us humans.

Come and see now! The Altar is on the works now. The reception and refreshments will happen next Art Walk October 30th, from 7 to 9 pm.

Los esperamos! (or, we are looking forward!)

Clockwise from top left: Charles Davison "Journey 2"; Trevor Mikula "Day of the Dead II"
Andrea Peterson "Mourning Dove"; Melinda Curtin "Dia De los Muertos" 


Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Tricks of the Trade

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Whenever I admire a piece of art, I can’t help but wonder how it was done. How did the artist get that amazing texture? What colors did she or he mix? What type of brush or implement was used? In other words, how did they do that??

I looked at the works of some of the Wilde Meyer artists, and decided to ask them about their artistic process. I wasn’t sure if they would appreciate my questions, or want to divulge their “secrets,” but they did! (I think artists really love to talk about their work.)

Yellow Sun Vinyard, 28 x 30 inches, oil on canvas
Rena Vadewater
Rena Vandewater’s charming paintings are full of color and energy. She combines several techniques: pointillism, patterning and what she calls “scruffling,” which is her way of moving her brush very quickly on the canvas while mixing color. All three combine to create vibrant scenes.

Rena says that she sketches out a plan on paper and then on her canvas. To emphasize an area, she uses a warm color to draw an outline; then she paints inside that shape. “My patterns come from my head,” she says. “They go together like a puzzle. When I don’t know where to go next, I stop for a few days, and wait until I feel inspired to go back to the painting.”

Dingo Dogs, 19 x 23 inches, oil on canvas
Rena Vandewater
Travels often inspire her paintings. “Yellow Sun” is a scene from vineyards Rena saw while visiting France. “I want the viewer to see a real reference, yet enjoy the wonder of the painting,” she says. The red ground behind the vineyard patterns, as well as the red outline of the small buildings and the sun give this painting so much energy! The shapes remind me of quilting.

Rena has worked hard to create and maintain her unique style. Initially, she was self-taught; then she went on and obtained an MFA degree. “Although I’ve studied and learned classical painting, I prefer the na├»ve, primitive style,” she says. “Dingo Dogs” is a good example of Rena’s unique take on a landscape. Here, she employs all of her special techniques: the red outlines, the scruffling for the trees, the patterns in the houses, the flat paint for the dogs, and the wonderful pointillist dots for the land. Her use of the complementary green and red in the dots really makes the painting pop. To top things off, Rena encloses the painting in a patterned frame. It’s busy, but it works!

Desert Garden by Acacia Alder
40 x 30 inches, acrylic on canvas
Acacia Alder loves to hike in the trails around her Tuscon home. She’s inspired by the landscapes she sees, and wants to depict the dynamic energy that exists there. Acacia conveys all this through a technique she employs to give her paintings a sculptural, three dimensional look. I asked her to explain.

“First, I use acrylic gel to sculpt the surface in very particular areas,” she says. “That creates a form for the subject matter, which is somewhat abstracted. Then, I paint over the gel. Each painting has many layers of both gel and paint. It can take quite a while to complete.”

Elan: Palo Verde Musings by Acacia Alder
36 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas
Acacia uses many different implements, including palette knives, brushes, small spatulas and even hair combs for texture. She says that her technique enables her to impart tonal changes, because the gel textures can more easily highlight the light and the shadows. You can see the sculptural quality of the beautiful tree in her painting entitled “Elan: Palo Verde Musings.” Her excellent use of light and shadow, along with a dark outline, makes the tree emerge from the abstract shapes of the landscape behind it.

“Desert Garden” is one of my favorite paintings by Acacia. The many textural shapes and wonderful color palette create energy, and the smooth, burnt orange path is a great, restful contrast. I really like the foliage shadows she’s created on the path.

Tracy Miller has a very interesting creative process. “I have a specific set of rules for myself when I paint,” she says. “I tone every canvas with a wash of either yellow, orange, red or hot pink to give a warm glow that informs the painting.”

Tracy explains her next step: “I make a visual haiku with black paint to create a balanced design of lines, circles or disjointed forms.”

Roughneck by Tracy Miller
11x 14 inches, acrylic on canvas
Bear by Tracy Miller
5 x 7 inches, acrylic on paper
Then, Tracy paints an abstract design within the black lines, while she finds a shape to help guide her to her final image. “It’s like looking at clouds and seeing distinct shapes,” she says. Certain shapes evoke certain animals to her. She sees bears in circular shapes; cows in more boxy shapes and buffalo in sharp angles. Tracy’s fine art background and familiarity with animals enables her to depict their structure and muscles even in her unconventional style. She purposely doesn’t show the entire animal, since she wants the viewers to finish the picture in their heads. When you look at two of her paintings, entitled “Roughneck” and “Bear,” you can get an idea of how she works.

Blue Mood by Tracy Miller
20 x 10 inches, acrylic on canvas 
After the abstract painting is complete, Tracy draws a simple outline in pencil of the final image she wants. Then she paints the negative space around that shape, which becomes the background. Amazing! When you look at “Blue Mood,” keep in mind how the image of the giraffe emerged. As a final touch, Tracy creates her unique signature of paint splatters across the canvas. “I do this to give additional energy to the painting,” she says. “I’m very mindful of the color I use, and after I’ve splattered, I know the work is done!”

Each of these artists has refined her process over time, and is now completely comfortable with it. What’s interesting to me is how personal these approaches are, and that’s why their work is so unique. Even if we understand the process, we can never paint the same way. Who wants to, anyway?

View more art by Rena VandewaterAcacia Alder  and Tracy Miller at Wilde Meyer Gallery. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

What’s Your Visual Language?

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Every artist has his or her visual language – sometimes it’s figurative, sometimes it’s not. I must confess, I’ve been avoiding this blog topic for quite a while. You see, I enjoy looking at most abstract art, but as a figurative painter, I find it hard to comprehend how it’s done.

One way to find out is to talk to some abstract artists! I made some calls, and our conversations were quite interesting. My take-away from talking to these three people is that abstract art is fun to make…but it still intimidates me!

Zuni Pueblo by Jack Roberts, acrylic on canvas 50 x 70 inches

Jack Roberts is an accomplished, mature artist who has been creating abstract paintings for quite some time. He strives to create a visual sensation, rather than a pictorial reference. “Abstract art is not derivative of representational painting,” he said. “It’s something all itself.

“When I paint, it’s more about the paint and the composition. I like pushing color and shape buttons to stir the viewer’s visual emotions,” he explained.

Honaki by Jack Roberts,
acrylic on canvas 50 x 70 inches
I’m a person who thrives on color, so I’m very drawn to Jack’s paintings. As you can see in his painting entitled “Zuni Pueblo,” his colors are very clear; he mixes beautiful opaques with jewel-toned transparent hues.

Jack works on a large canvas, on a flat surface. He says he likes to paint wet-on-wet, so the paint is always moving. He uses many different implements, from plastic spatulas to push brooms and house paint brushes. A garden hose is used to remove paint in some areas, and reveal other dry paint underneath, to create the layers he wants.

Sandia Peak I by Jack Roberts
acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 inches
“I like to work freely and go where the paint takes me,” he said. “But, although I want my work to look spontaneous, each painting requires considerable thought, to make sure I achieve the proper composition and color relationships.”

Although Jack’s paintings are not referential, he does admit to being inspired by the many places he visits, from tropical islands to the landscapes of New Mexico and his hometown of Sedona. He also thinks back to personal experiences, and his perceptions of them, rather than the actual events. “Honanki” and “Sandia Peak 1” both speak to me of the Southwest.


Ryan Hale said his influences are the large color-field abstracts of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. But his unique body of work reflects his interest in how man-made materials and natural forms interact with each other. Some of his abstract paintings refer to aerial views of cities where these two elements co-exist. Sometimes, they work well together; and, as we know, at other times they clash. His painting entitled “Through the City” presents us with this conundrum.

Through the City by Ryan Hale,
acrylic on canvas 60 x 48 inches 
Forces of Nature by Ryan Hale
acrylic on canvas 60 x 48 inches 

After speaking with Ryan, I believe his artistic process is an introspective one. He can see a space where layers of old posters have been torn off and just remnants remain, take that mental reference and use it for a painting. He explains that “the textures and surfaces of a city wall after years of weather, repainting and painting over graffiti or various forms of damage, all stacked and layered through the filter of time, can be quite beautiful.”

The Forming Earth by Ryan Hale
acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches
As for his techniques, Ryan uses acrylics and select glazes to produce translucent and opaque color layering. One of the reasons I like his work so much is his signature color: red! “The Forming Earth” is a good example of his skill with hues and his beautiful red.

Ryan said he works on several pieces at once. He’ll have general ideas for a painting, but they often change, especially since he works very fast, to convey movement and energy.  I think you can feel this energy in “The Forces of Nature.” Then, he’ll stop and think about the piece for a while before he changes or adds things. He said that he generally starts with darker hues, and then builds up to lighter ones, looking to see how the colors are flowing and working with each other.


Here and There by Ava Young,
Here and There by Ava Young,
mixed media on canvas, 40 x 30 inches
Ava Young is a mixed media artist who enjoys selecting different materials to layer and create paintings with interesting textures. “You have to be willing to be a mad scientist,” she said. And, referring to her passion for non-figurative art, she added, “Abstract painting allows me to invite viewers to venture away from their intellect and respond with the heart.”

Ava brings her interest in collage to her paintings. She works intuitively; starting with a base of molding paste mixed with such materials as dry wall powder or sand to create a ground of texture. Then, she adds other materials. “Here and There” was made with paper, sand, glass beads and metal wire. She paints first with acrylics, and adds a layer of oil paint to give a translucent finish.

Dancing Away by Ava Young
Dancing Away by Ava Young
mixed media on canvas, 30 x 40 inches
The open-ended process of abstract painting appeals to Ava. She adds and removes layers of paint (with alcohol or a magic eraser) to create a new set of textures and colors. “I just keep going until it seems right,” she says. “And, sometimes, I go back to a painting later and make more adjustments.” Her painting entitled “Dancing Away” required many hours of applications and removals.


Spontaneity, energy, emotions and a lack of boundaries seem to be at the heart of abstract painting. I think that’s why so many artists are drawn to this style of visual language.
Could I? Stay tuned!

View more art by Jack Roberts, Ryan Hale and Ava Young at Wilde Meyer Gallery.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Just Say “No” to Canvas!

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Since I’m a fairly traditional artist, I paint on canvas or, sometimes, wood panel. But, I’ve discovered, after talking to other artists at the gallery, that it can be fun to paint on other surfaces.

That’s not such a new idea. Aside from really early paintings such as petroglyphs, traditional art was made on wood panels, before canvas came into use in the early 1400s. According to Wikipedia, panel painting remained more common until the 16th century in Italy and the 17th century in Northern Europe.

But, walls and wood panels are pretty ordinary surfaces. How about vintage windows; mixed media with glass and paint; sheet metal and ceramics? That’s what I saw looking at the Wilde Meyer website, so I decided to give those artists a call.

Melinda Curtin is done with canvas. She’s entranced with glass art. “Ever since I started painting on glass, I didn’t want to paint on anything else,” she said. Her favorite surface is old glass windows, which she finds at salvage yards. But, she says, “People hear about my work and bring me their old windows!”

Melinda enjoys the process of painting on smooth glass. She uses acrylic paints, often layering to get the desired effect. However, painting on glass can be challenging. Melinda says that it’s a reverse process, so she has to paint all the details first, and then the large spaces afterwards. If you look at “Casa Blanca,” you can see that the house, cacti, mountains and clouds are all outlined in black, and the big shapes are mostly flat paint. Sometimes Melinda leaves a little space between the outline and bigger shape to let a little of the transparent glass show through. She’s also designed a frame of gold leaf on the glass, which fits inside the window pane.

“El Parajo” also has its own painted border. This painting, too, has a folk art aspect to it. Melinda told me that in Europe, painting on glass was generally folk art, so she also chooses themes in this tradition.

Aside from loving the process of painting on glass, Melinda says that this support medium gives her images a very luminous effect. And, the vintage windows are a great conversation piece: just look at “The Farm.” A great way to recycle!

Josiane Childers enjoys painting on smooth surfaces, too. She’s chosen thin sheets of steel, as well as plexiglass to support her beautiful abstract paintings. She works with her husband Justin, who prepares the surfaces, grinding parts of the steel and plexiglass to create texture. He also creates the frames on which the steel pieces are attached.

When she paints on plexiglass, Josiane works on the frosted side, but presents the painting on the smooth side. She encounters the same challenges as Melinda, since she, too, is painting in reverse.

You can see the ground textures in Josiane’s dreamy landscape entitled “Captivate.” They take the paint pigment differently, and since they are darker, they appear to be behind the other images. She’s also created a beautiful reflection of the vertical tree shapes with softer strokes and tones. “I find it exciting to paint on other surfaces,” she said. “It makes my work look more diverse.”

Thin steel gives Josiane another option to present her art. The two pieces of her vertical diptych entitled “Invoke” are uniquely shaped and curved, welded to a flat frame. Again, the textures on the steel show through, offering spontaneous shapes, grabbing color in a different way than the smoother areas. Josiane paints intuitively, using bright colors, and these surfaces seem to work so well for her.

She hasn’t abandoned canvas, but when she does paint on that surface, she textures it as well, using molding paste and then, thick paint. “Materialize” is an example of her mixed media technique.

Nancy Pendleton and her sister, Sandy are both artists. Nancy is a painter and Sandy works in glass. Often, they combine their talents to create mixed media pieces on wood panel. Although that surface is traditional, their collaborative work is not. Nancy paints an abstract ground for Sandy’s glass centerpiece. “We’ve worked out a technique,” said Nancy. “I often use a centerpiece in my art, and Sandy came up with glass pieces that work well in my paintings. You can see examples of this sibling partnership in “What You See Is What It Is #2 and “Oasis.”

Kathryn Blackmun was a graphic designer and illustrator living in Los Angeles. When she moved to Santa Fe, she decided to study ceramics. Now, her whimsical images of dogs, cats, cowboys and cacti are painted on greenware plates.

Kathryn’s challenges are different from those of Melinda’s. She doesn’t paint in reverse, but since she works on gray-colored clay, she can’t see colors accurately when she creates her images with underglaze paint. “The greenware has to be fired for seven hours, and cooled for several hours before I can tell if the colors are what I wanted,” she said. “It’s definitely unpredictable!”

This labor-intensive process ends with a coat of clear glaze, and another firing and cooling. To look at a happy piece such as “Dog Trek,” you’ve never know it was so time-consuming! “Cowboy Palomino” is a good example of Kathryn’s folk art style, which is well-suited to this type of ceramics.

After I finished interviewing these artists, I went to a local thrift shop. Poking around, I found three wood frames with glass inserts. Guess what I’m going to try? But, I’m not abandoning canvas. I have too much inventory!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Let’s take a trip!

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Summertime is a favorite season to get out of town (especially if you’re in Phoenix) and enjoy the scenery elsewhere. But, sometimes that’s not possible. So, what better way to take a vicarious trip than enjoying a beautiful landscape painting!

There are several wonderful landscape painters at Wilde Meyer. Most are avid outdoors people who love to explore their surroundings in Colorado and New Mexico. Although they all do some studies en plein air, they prefer to take photos and communicate their experiences with larger studio paintings.

Michael Baum said that he and his wife often take road trips in the late afternoon during the summer, “putting on a couple hundred miles, when the light is just right.” She drives, and he takes photos. His painting entitled “Clouds Building” is from one of these trips.

They also take several trips to Utah a year, backpacking and camping in the canyon country. Michael says, “The reality of these places goes beyond what you are seeing. The landscape truly experienced involves all the senses, the subtleties of light reflecting from a canyon wall, the sharp tang of sage in the air, and the coolness of a hidden canyon.”

When he returns to his studio, Michael strives to re-experience his feelings, using his plein air studies and photos. His goal: “to have the viewer experience some of the magic I feel when I’m there.”

I think we can feel the special moment of early morning when we look at “Sunrise on the Bluffs.” And, looking at the cool blues and greens in the beautiful water reflections of “Summer Oasis” makes me forget the summer heat outside! I admire the way Michael has made his mountains recede with muted cool tones, allowing the trees and water to catch the light and sparkle.

Gregory Stocks lives in Salt Lake City, and often paints scenes from the surrounding area. He, too, does small sketches on location and takes reference photos to bring back to his studio. Gregory told me that memory is very important in his work, “as I am able to recall the important aspects of a scene without being bogged down by all of the information that’s not necessary to communicate what I felt in the location at the time.”

His painting entitled “In Harmony” reflects Gregory’s process, and his feelings towards that place along a creek. His beautiful brush strokes and fiery hues tell us that this is a lovely autumn day. The reflection of the sky and trees in the water brings the viewer into the painting, and invites us to stay a while.

Gregory also uses memory to call upon scenes from his youth in the Snake River Valley of Idaho, where he spent his teenage years. “I don’t remember caring so much about the landscape when I was there, but now I’m mining it all up,” he says.

“In a Big Sky” is one of Gregory’s Idaho memory paintings. He says that the winding river and rural scene juxtaposed against the big, colorful sky communicate his emotional response to the area. “I like to refer to a painting like this one as having a sense of ‘breathing room,’ of depth and space and an atmosphere that I can almost feel.”

I think we can agree with that, as well as his wonderful comment that painting is “an emotional vacation that I can take any time.”

Stephen Morath takes a different approach to his paintings. He uses references to places he’s been, but it’s more of a distillation of various landscapes. And, there’s usually a story to tell. For example, “Another Baja Moonrise” shows an unusual image of a desert landscape looking across the Sea of Cortez. But the tall palm trees and the VW bus imply there’s a bigger tale here. According to Stephen, the couple represents Adam and Eve, “totally alone in an exotic landscape.” I guess the snake is another clue. The “hippie vehicle” is something Stephen always wanted!

Since he enjoys painting with cool colors, Stephen likes to portray a scene at the end of the day, or, as with “Morning Moon,” at first sunrise. He commented that his work has an air of “magical realism,” meaning that his attention to details is somewhat unnatural, and his landscapes definitely have a romanticized perspective. The red truck is a wonderful accent against the cool morning desert.

Sometimes, Stephen lets his imagination take over the painting. In his work entitled “Mescalito,” we see what looks like a New Mexican landscape, but there are many characters in this story. I was first drawn to the horseman in the foreground with the cactus face, but then my eyes went everywhere, looking at the images and trying to decipher their meanings. I’ll leave you with that comment. To see more, and come to your own conclusions, it would be best to see the painting at Wilde Meyer!