Geometric power lines, glistening river rocks and haunted portraits beckon at the 29th National Pastel Painting Exhibition.
Of the 118 paintings accepted and 292 submitted, 25 works are from New Mexico artists. The exhibition is a hybrid show of images both online and at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos.
“We’re looking at a lot of images of the everyday,” museum curator Michelle Lanteri said. “A lot of it is about stirring up memories of your own.”
Created from the same pigments used in watercolor and oil, pastels use gum tragacanth as a binder. A particle of pastel pigment resembles a diamond when viewed under a microscope. The facets cause paintings to trigger reflections similar to prisms, producing vivid color.
Letitia Roller’s haunting “One Last Look” shows a couple divided by geometric shadows on a Lake Michigan pier.
“It’s from a photograph I had taken of my parents many, many years ago,” the Santa Fe artist said. “They are no longer with me.”
Roller’s parents lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin; her father liked to fish on the lake.
“The shadow always represents the chasm between my parents,” Roller said. “My mother went one way and my father always went another way.”
Viewers have called the piece eerie. The stark composition resembles the work of the artist Edward Hopper, who created minor key drama out of commonplace subjects layered with poetic meaning.
A former tapestry weaver, Roller took workshops and kept sketchbooks after she bought her first $300 box of pastels.
“The colors in my box; they call to me,” she said.
Former New Mexico Pastel Society treasurer Sarah Blumenschein took second place with her still life “Silver Vase Pink Scarf.”
The Albuquerque artist has been painting in pastels for 20 years. She’s known for creating still lifes and florals.
“I’m always drawn back to the florals because you can pick any color you want,” she said.
“I was an engineer at Intel, then I decided to stay home with my kids and I wanted to take up art,” Blumenschein said.
She liked the immediacy of pastels; she could run errands and return to her work without worrying about drying time.
“I like the challenge of trying to create on a two-dimensional surface something that’s three-dimensional,” she added.
Ann Lewis copied “Fifth Grade Friend” from her own photograph. She met the girl in the photo at church.
“Her parents are from Ghana,” the Rio Rancho artist said. “I met her mother in church one day.”
Lewis asked the mother to work as a model and she brought along her two daughters.
“The last time was just before COVID hit,” she said. “The daughter was in fifth grade at the time. She is just a beautiful face and (I liked) the lighting on her.”
Paul Murray’s “Power” shows an electrical box attached to an industrial building. The image came from a photograph he took in Albuquerque.
“It started out all brown and grey,” the La Cienega artist said. “I’ve been doing color substitution lately because it makes you look.”
The building turned a vivid blue; the boxes yellow.
“I did it because the yellow blue combination made it interesting,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated by things people ignore.”
A onetime graphic artist, Murray first came to New Mexico at the age of 2. He turned to pastels in the mid-’90s.
“With almost all other media – oil, watercolor, acrylic – there’s a little bit of a color shift. With pastels, you put the color down and it’s right there. The pigment load in pastels is higher than almost every medium.”
A former president of the New Mexico Pastel Society, Murray shows his work at Weems Gallery.