Oil pastel artist brings her bold compositions to the 21st Annual Rio Grande Holiday Show - Albuquerque Journal

Oil pastel artist brings her bold compositions to the 21st Annual Rio Grande Holiday Show

“A Sunset Song,” oil pastel by Jennifer Cavan. (Courtesy of Jennifer Cavan)

As the clock ticks toward Thanksgiving, it must be Rio Grande time.

About 150 artists will show their work at the 21st Annual Rio Grande Holiday Show at EXPO New Mexico on Friday, Nov. 26, Saturday, Nov. 27 and Sunday, Nov. 28.

Jennifer Cavan was “absolutely enchanted by New Mexico and the landscape here.”

Kicking off on Black Friday, the event features an array of handmade items including clothing, woodwork, glass art, ornaments, furniture, jewelry, pottery and fine art. Audiences will find live entertainment, speciality food sampling and a kid’s “creation station.”

Emblazoned across the show’s marketing materials, the work of Jennifer Cavan glows with vibrant, saturated colors capturing New Mexico landscapes.

A self-described “corporate dropout,” the Santa Fe-based artist left a Chicago career for the dramatic New Mexico terrain 25 years ago.

“The Old Mission,” oil pastel by Jennifer Cavan. (Courtesy of the Artist)

At first, Cavan took a more traditional path, majoring in history at Brown University before landing in Chicago developing department store real estate strategies.

“I worked for Sears,” she said. “It was a very white male dominant environment. I could see there was a ceiling above me and I wouldn’t go any further.”

She had visited New Mexico because her now-in-laws lived in Angel Fire.

“I fell in love with it,” Cavan said.

When she moved, she began “dabbling” in retablos (devotional paintings), selling them at a church fair.

“Without a Hispanic background and not knowing much about them, it just wasn’t right,” Cavan said.

Then she tried working in oil pastels, selling three at the Angel Fire Arts & Crafts show. An oil pastel is a painting and drawing medium formed into a stick consisting of pigment mixed with a binder.

Cavan loved the direct application of color without having to mix it on the palette.

She worked for six months, producing “at least 50” pieces for a Dallas show.

“I practically sold out,” Cavan said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I’m onto something.’ ”

Her diamond-flecked skies twinkle with stars; trees blaze red and orange, pink clouds soar like birds in the breeze.

Today she depicts adobes and barns in bold compositions and shifted perspectives to create her personal vision of New Mexico.

“I’m absolutely enchanted by New Mexico and the landscape here,” Cavan said. “I’m also very interested in the building techniques – (like) Española’s T-structure. It uses the same lintel over the doors and windows.

“I love imagining who lives in these buildings,” she continued. “Was a son getting married and they needed to add on?”

She relies on photographs, sketches and her own memories of places discovered on the back roads of the state.

“Vadito’s Grace” oil pastel by Jennifer Cavan. (Courtesy of the Artist)

“I use my rose-colored glasses, so my colors are very vibrant,” Cavan said. “I play with the perspective of the buildings a little bit. It makes the viewers look at it more.”

This marks her first holiday show with Rio Grande Arts & Crafts.

“Finding Bright in the Night,” oil pastel by Jennifer Cavan. (Courtesy of the Artist)

 

“Albuquerque’s a really strong market for me,” Cavan said.

She once traveled the country peddling her paintings. Today she concentrates on Texas, Colorado, Arizona, California and, of course, New Mexico. Cavan is a signature member of the Oil Pastel Society of America.

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