LAS VEGAS, N.M. – Sunlight shimmers through the glowing yellow aspen leaves against a deep-blue New Mexico sky in John Hogan’s painting “Aspen Tree/Autumn Sun.”
A halo of swirling bees crowns the head of a young brown-eyed woman in Lea Bradovich’s painting “Beehaloed.”
An Apache butterfly dancer in traditional ceremonial clothing spreads her arms like wings poised for flight in Kim Reed-Deemer’s painting “Wind.”
These paintings illustrate the diversity of subject matter in the Second Invitational New Mexico Painters Exhibition at Highlands University that features 50 established and up-and-coming artists. The free exhibition opens Sept. 6.
“The artists demonstrate an accomplished awareness of contemporary developments in international art,” said James Mann, exhibition curator. “The broad range of skills and styles are a remarkable display of professional achievement.”
Mann, who curated more than 50 exhibitions from 1996-2005 for the Las Vegas Art Museum in Nevada, said most of the artwork in the Highlands exhibition employs primarily figural rather than abstract representation. Highlands Fine Arts Professor Todd Christensen helped curate the exhibition.
“This juried exhibition offers a generous sampling of the wide variety of contemporary visual art being created in New Mexico,” Mann said. “The state’s spectacular geography and geology have been powerful attractors for artists for a century, and are amply represented in ambitious landscape paintings. There is a wide range of other subject matter, such as still life and portraiture, along with traditional and contemporary New Mexico culture and architecture.”
Robert Bell, a Santa Fe art collector, patron, author and publisher, spearheaded the invitational exhibition for the second year. The Highlands Foundation collaborated with Bell to produce the exhibition.
Many of the paintings will be available for purchase.
“This is another very strong show of interesting art that engages the viewer and makes you want to study the paintings to see different layers of meaning,” Bell said. “Some of the work will evoke memories, like Frank Croft’s paintings of historic places of worship in small Spanish villages.”
Bell said the exhibition is a cross-section of established artists who have worked in New Mexico for decades – like Jerry West, Monica Steinhoff, Nacho Jaramillo and Janet Stein Romero – to emerging artists like Alexis Palmaffy, Gayther Gonzales and Abby Mattison.
West, a Highlands alumnus, will sign copies of his new book from New Mexico Press, “Jerry West: the Alchemy of Memory,” at the opening reception.
In 2013, Bell and Santa Fe artist Eli Levin joined forces to establish the Dr. Robert Bell Permanent Art Collection at Highlands, with gifts of 200 and 100 paintings respectively. Since then, their donations have increased the permanent collection to more than 450 artworks.
“The reason I donate art to Highlands is that the university uses it as a teaching collection for students and the community.
Kennedy Hall has been transformed into an open and inviting gallery space that is ideal for shows like this Invitational New Mexico Painters Exhibition,” Bell said.
Since 2001, Bell has also donated more than 2,000 fine art prints to Highlands and teaches a popular print lecture series at the university.