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Highlands University exhibition features New Mexico painters

A 15-year-old violinist concentrates on his complex music in Nacho Jaramillo’s painting “Virtuoso.”

“Paolo Freire y Noam Chomsky,” mixed media collage and acrylic on panel by Erin Currier.

Foreboding rust-colored clouds approach in Johanna Keenan’s painting “Sand Dunes Before a Storm.”

A Brazilian educator and American linguist, both renowned philosophers, are depicted in Erin Currier’s painting “Paolo Freire y Noam Chomsky.” Golden aspens shimmer on a sunny day in Priscilla Wiggins’ painting “Vances Autumn.”

These paintings illustrate the diverse subject matter in the Fourth Invitational New Mexico Painters Exhibition at New Mexico Highlands University that features 30 established and up-and-coming artists.

The free exhibition opens Sept. 17 in the Kennedy Alumni Hall, 905 University Ave., with an opening reception from 4 to 7 p.m. It is the only annual juried exhibition of New Mexico painters.

“This year’s artists depict subject matter which represents both contemporary New Mexico culture and the timeless imagery of the state’s breathtaking natural beauty,” said James Mann, exhibition curator. “These artists demonstrate an accomplished awareness of contemporary developments in international art. Their sophistication and creative imagination are impressive.”

Nacho Jaramillo’s tempera, “Virtuoso.”

Mann curated more than 50 exhibitions from 1996 to 2005 for the Las Vegas Art Museum in Nevada.

Renee Buchanan, art curator for the Highlands Foundation, which is presenting the exhibition, said this year the New Mexico Painters Exhibition has a robust focus on Las Vegas art past and present.

“We want to show the strong tradition of the arts in the Las Vegas area that continue as a vital thread of the fabric of our community while also highlighting artists from other areas in the state,” Buchanan said.

The featured artist for the exhibition is Nacho Jaramillo, an award-winning northern New Mexico artist best-known for his haunting portraits.

Jaramillo, who traces his roots to Spanish colonial days, earned a B.A. in art education from Highlands in 1971. He said he is drawn to portraiture because people are the most compelling and interesting subjects.

“One of my favorite quotes is from the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, who said, ‘Art is not art unless it is wrenched from the soul of a man.’ A successful portrait is one that captures the essence of the individual’s persona and mood. The eyes are very difficult, and as the saying goes, are the gateway to the soul,” Jaramillo said.

Jaramillo, 74, said he uses bristle brushes to draw the image using pure black tempera. He calls his black-and-white pieces manchas, the Spanish word for how he smears the tempera to achieve the desired effect.