Showing posts with label Jim Nelson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim Nelson. Show all posts

Friday, August 16, 2013

Art and Spirituality

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Is there a special relationship between art and spirituality? There are many reasons to think so. Art and traditional religions have always been linked – some of the greatest paintings and sculptures have had religious themes.

I think artists have always striven to express something that’s beyond the material. The “language” of art can be an emotional reaction to a beautiful landscape, a completely conceptual piece that conveys a personal message, or an image that tells a story of importance to the artist. Often, there’s a spiritual component.
Ghost Shirt series #4  61"x61"
by Jim Nelson
  There are two artists at Wilde Meyer who express spirituality in very different ways. Jim Nelson is a painter and storyteller of legends of the Lakota tribe of South Dakota. Although he is not of native heritage, Jim grew up near the Pine Ridge reservation and was friends with Lakota children. Their culture became part of him, and he has always painted their stories. Everything in Jim’s work has a meaning, expressed through vibrant colors and symbolism. He says, “I don’t just paint a person or an animal. I paint the spirit of that person or animal, and hope that the viewer will gain an understanding of this people and their culture.”

According to Jim, four primary colors represent the four sacred beings of the Lakota. Red is the highest spiritual color; blue represents the wisdom of the Sky Father; green is the Earth Mother; and yellow is the color of rocks in high places that overpower anything that stands next to them. When you look at Jim’s work, almost all paintings include these strong colors.

Paint Their Face Red 30.5"x30.5"
by Jim Nelson
For example, in the painting entitled “When Ravens Call to Her,” red is the dominant color, indicating the high spiritual nature of the woman, who has the souls and spirits of soldiers killed in battle, brought to her by the ravens who are pictured flying across her body. Jim says that these spirits are then given to the Grandfather of the North Wind (indicated by the deep blue), who puts them in the northern lights in what is called a “shadow dance.” If the eyes of this woman seem very compelling, it’s probably because Jim begins every painting with the eyes of his subject and, he says, they pull him in and dictate the course of the imagery. All of his faces are deep in thought because they are telling an important story.

When Ravens Call to Her 48"x48"
by Jim Nelson
 There are many other symbols in “Bird Woman,” which depicts a healer of battle wounds. Her striped face means that she’s been touched by a grizzly bear and has his protection. The butterfly symbolizes a messenger from the Earth Mother who teaches the healer her ways. The circles on the left side of the painting represent the lodges where the tribe once lived, and the deep blue background again connotes the wisdom of the Sky Father.

Bird Woman 36"x36"
by Jim Nelson
See the Medicine Hat 31.5"x26.5"
by Jim Nelson
I asked Jim about the image of the American flag, which appears in the painting entitled “Blackbird's Day.” He said it refers to the encroachment of the white man on the Native Americans’ lands. This painting, too, has a very strong message, which is seen in the eyes of the subject; the use of the important four colors – especially red – and the symbols. The latter appeal to us because of their decorative design, but they mean so much more, once Jim explains their significance. You can certainly appreciate his work on a purely artistic level, but when you probe and learn the spirituality beyond it, these paintings become so fascinating!

Blackbird's Day 30.5" x 30.5"
by Jim Nelson
Albert Scharf takes spirituality in another direction. His series of new paintings are inspired by the Kabbalah, the study of Jewish spirituality and mysticism. Albert says about these paintings: “I think of these pieces as meditation plaques. The Hebrew letters are like antennas to me; they make me think about things that I don’t normally contemplate. The letters also have a sound that can be chanted as a meditation.”

Left: Ayen Shin Lamed mixed media on canvas 20"x16"
Right: Mum Lamed Hey oil and sea shell mixed media on canvas 16"x20"
by Albert Scharf
As I said before, spirituality and art are connected. Albert’s Kabbalah-inspired paintings, such as “Ayen Shin Lamed” and “Mum Lamed Hey” are pleasing to look at, but they invite us to go deeper and pursue their meaning.

Landscapes #704 and #705 diptych
24"x24" total
by Albert Scharf
So, to learn a little about Kabbalah, I went to the website “Judaism 101.” Here is part of the explanation on the site: “According to Kabbalah, the true essence of G-d is so transcendent that it cannot be described, except with reference to what it is not. This true essence of G-d is known as Ein Sof, which literally means "without end," which encompasses the idea of His lack of boundaries in both time and space.

I still didn’t understand the definition, so I went to www.kabbalah.info.com. Here, it was stated: “In simpler words, there is an upper, all-inclusive force, or “the Creator,” controlling everything in reality. Some of these forces are familiar to us, such as gravity or electricity, while there are forces of a higher order that act while remaining hidden to us. Kabbalah holds the map or the knowledge of how these hidden forces are structured, and the laws by which they influence us.”

Albert also expresses his spirituality in his cloud paintings series. He says that he sees clouds as the transition state from land to the sky. “Spiritual energies are transmitted to us through the clouds. Their light affects our moods.”
Landscape #715 50"x60"
by Albert Scharf
 As you can see in “Landscape 715” (yes, he numbers his paintings and has done nearly 800), the clouds pull us into the painting and encourage us to go to a meditative place. “Landscape 682” also conveys the importance of color to Albert. He does not use local color, but prefers to select saturated hues that he says are the emotional content of his art. “If I can get people to experience an emotion, they can raise their consciousness to a higher level.”

Landscape #703 48"x36"
by Albert Scharf
You can see more art by Jim Nelson and Albert Scharf at Wilde Meyer Gallery.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Wilde "Wild West"

Why has Western-themed art always been so popular with collectors?

So many of us are interested in the stories of the American “Wild West” and the characters who colored our history there. To me, Western art has a unique duality: the romanticism of traveling through beautiful country on a horse and the tough, grittiness of the cowboys who embrace this life.

At Wilde Meyer Gallery, there are several artists who have brought their own subjective interpretation to the theme of western art. Their styles range from traditional to contemporary, and their subject matter focuses on landscapes, wildlife and the people who follow the western traditions.

"Once He Rode the Wild Horses" acrylic on panel 24"x24"
by Jim Nelson
Jim Nelson
Jim Nelson uses very intense colors, which he says are based on the sacred colors of the Lakota people. He is a descendent of Wendel Phillips, a noted Indian rights advocate of the late 1800’s.

Nelson says, "Through my paintings, I attempt to illustrate the legends and spirituality that was taught to me by my grandmother. The subject matter I paint is not a modern Indian, but a people at a period of time when animal spirits were tied to everyday life. In our modern world, an inquisitive public is reaching back into the ancient times for a simpler way of life and the basics; the sky, the earth and the open prairie." 

In this painting, entitled “Once he Rode the Wild Horses,” Nelson uses red and other primary colors to depict the strength of this noble man. His direct gaze at the viewer is riveting, and Nelson’s use of the American flag design on his clothing and in the buffalo appliqué provide thought-provoking irony. To me, the green spots that dance across his chest create additional energy in the painting.

Paul Sheldon
Paul Sheldon refers to old western photographs to make sure his cowboys’ clothing is accurate. But his paintings are far from traditional!  His strong colors energize his western scenes and give his paintings a contemporary edge.

"Montana Busters" 30"x40"
by Paul Sheldon
"The Ranch Lassie"  33"x36"
by Paul Sheldon

In “Montana Busters,” two figures sit straight on horseback against a flat, stylized mountain background. The grassy plain in the foreground is bright red – a considered choice of subjective color – broken by the long cobalt blue shadow. The turquoise outlines around the cowboys make them appear three dimensional, standing out in front of the background.


"Moonrise Over the Red Wall" acrylic on canvas  31.5" x 41.5"
by Thom Ross
 Thom Ross
Thom Ross is another Wilde Meyer artist who interprets Western art in a personal way.   Thom brings his love of history and story-telling to his paintings, which he sees as a “contemplation of history and the people and events which so shaped it."

In “Moonrise over the Red Wall,” the two cowboys take a tough stance, staring at and assessing the viewer.

The artist’s strong brush strokes; unusual horizon line; and stylized mountains topped by a flat moon sphere definitely get my attention. There’s some very strong masculine energy here, and I expect these guys to come to life and start shooting!

Carolyn Hawley

"It's a Hair Cut and Shave" oil on canvas 24.5" x 28.5"
by Carolyne Hawley
 Carolyn Hawley presents a much more traditional view of the western cowboy.

In “It’s a Hair Cut & Shave,” her subject sits in the center of the painting, astride his horse. He looks like he’s just come from a long trip (his horse looks a little tired..) and he’s contemplating whether he should dismount and get cleaned up at the local barbershop.

Carolyn uses sunlight very effectively to make the cowboy and his beautiful horse stand out against the darker background.

"Beyond the Burros"  oil on canvas 31" x 31"
by Sarah Webber
Sarah Webber
Western wildlife is Sarah Webber’s passion.   Her painterly close-ups of southwestern birds and animals show her love of these creatures, as well as her love of the painting process.

Sarah’s work is figurative, but her strokes creative wonderful patterns. You can see this talent in both “Beyond the Burros” and “Trick or Treat.”

These animals look so interested in the viewer! I think any of Sarah’s paintings would look great hanging near other western art, such as one of Carolyn’s pieces.

Writing this blog has really opened my eyes to the many different styles of American western art. I’m pretty impressed!


"Trick or Treat"  oil on canvas 20"x32"
by Sarah Webber
Wilde Meyer will have a special selection of Western art showing in October,  click here for more information or send us an email.

Figures of the West
October 6, 2011 through November 2, 2011
 Wilde Meyer Gallery, 4142 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, AZ. 480-945-2323.

Animals and Places of the West
October 6, 2011 through November 2, 2011
Colores, 7100 Main Street, Scottsdale, AZ. 480-947-1489

Also, please visit us during Western Artwalk on Thursday October 9, 2011.