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evolution through the landscape

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Nov. 20th, 2006 | 03:22 am

I moved to taos, new mexico the first time when I was seventeen. I had never seen the landscape, never seen an indian reservation, never smelled pinion burning in a kiva fireplace. and like anyone else who visits I got hit over the head with images in gallery windows of 'pretty paintings' of mountinas, animals, pueblos, and flowery new mexico doorways and lanes. I wanted to be an artist, and I sensed that these must be the works that were selling, they were everywhere. I knew enough about art history to know that this particular approach didn't really fit into the 'serious' mainstream of art, and yet it was impossible to deny that these western themes had forged their way into the mainstream consciousness.

being from fort worth, I had seen the r.c gorman's on occasional walls, and if I had ever seen taos it had been in a painting, accompanied by someone's comment in a texas accent, 'oh, we jsut love taos.'

through my years of art school in albuquerque and taos, and through studying art history, the majority of western and native american art naturally was thrown out the window...only a handful of artists semed to have been able to hold the mantel of western painting and acceptability in the world of high art...the scrutiny of art historians, and the reality of what had happened in the art world over the last half-century left the feeling that most of these people painting landscapes in bright colors were naive, children who had somehow missed the point of all major movements in art...

I had good teachers, I hung out in the studios of highly regarded minimalists, post-modernists, high-art and high-minded californians. and somehow twenty years later I find myself painting this year in bright colors, fanciful (and childlike) themes, and the same brightly colored landscapes and western animals that I consciously know may relegate me to the lions, classify me as kitsch, and close doors that could have opened on any other terms.

My ongoing question to self has been, knowing that my sensibilities do lie in the post-modern minefield, is there a serious and poingant place for me in this tradition? So far so good...I'm a third generation painter - my father and grandfather both painted animals and landscapes (my father still does, at seventy-five) and I guess my blessing, no matter what I leanned in school, is that when I go to paint a landscape, what comes out is like no other western landscape...and the animals I paint can range, in the same painting, from fauvist or german expressionist figures in seven colors and black outline to very detailed paintings of regional birds painted for audubon...with a set of new brushes from my father, if nothing else, these are getting better.

so we shall see. I'm watching it happen as it happens, and the odd result is that in my decision to try this, something happened, coninues to happen...

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