Southwestern Landscapes · New Mexico Artists

These evocative paintings come in all sizes and styles.

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Landscape painting was born on the walls of ancient temples and in the villas of Pompeii. It evolved during the Renaissance to become fully realized in Europe by the Barbizon painters of mid-19th century France. Since the Hudson River School first received critical acclaim in the 1820s American landscape painting has grown toward domination of the genre with dramatically romantic vistas, breathtaking waterfalls, frighteningly beautiful canyons and stunningly vast horizons.

When German born landscape artist Albert Bierstadt painted his sublime panoramas of the American West during the 1850s he was seen by many to be a painter of fiction. Though he took artistic license for compositional and other purely aesthetic ends Bierstadt was essentially a truthful depicter of our sensational landscape.

American artist Thomas Moran was a visual Shakespeare of the American West who convinced Congress, through his rapturously eloquent murals, to set aside the lands surrounding Yellowstone as a national park. Bierstadt, Moran and other Hudson River painters who rendered the West left behind an inspirational legacy that spawned generations of artists who painted in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. New Mexico is especially magnetic to artists who are dazzled by the variety of landscape elements, deep canyons, high mountains, vast deserts and the clear dry air that adds countless miles to ones ordinary field of vision.

Contemporary artists Wilson Hurley, Alan Paine Radebaugh, Elmer Schooley and Doris Steider live and paint in New Mexico. Their works range from spectacular mountains under heavenly skies, abstracted details, modernist inspired aerial views to glowing sunlit trees and crumbling architecture.

Engineer, military pilot, attorney and widely acclaimed landscape painter Wilson Hurley fell in love with New Mexico’s landscape as a child but didn’t become a fulltime artist until he was in his forties.

“When I told my family I wanted to be a professional artist I was disowned, divorced and denigrated as some kind of crazy man,” Hurley said during a studio visit.

Despite the reactions of friends and family Hurley persisted and, though it took years of struggle, became renown for his mastery of the western landscape.

“I knew to get good at anything you had to work and study hard. I was tempted to go back to college but was advised not to because I had a unique vision that probably wouldn’t survive the tearing down process of academia. Instead I spent hours in museums and galleries in front of the best paintings I could find so that I could learn how to paint well,” Hurley said.

Late Afternoon at La Cueva

Image: © Wilson Hurley "Late Afternoon at La Cueva"
Oil on canvas, 60" x 96"
Collection The Albuquerque Museum remote

His persistence resulted in major commissions and inclusion in the finest art collections. Hurley finds it difficult to meet the demand for his large romantic mountain filled landscapes under fantastically lit billowing cloud formations. Hurley articulately communicates his awe as well as his scientific understanding of nature to the viewer.

Hurley became attached to the fantastic beauty of cloud-enhanced skies over incredible landforms when he flew military aircraft over almost half the world. “After my years of flying I appreciated New Mexico’s unique geological variety and moisture free atmosphere that allows you to see a hundred miles without distortion. That clarity of vision and plentiful topographical interest makes this a great place to live and paint”.

Alan Paine Radebaugh remote studied medicine before committing to art. His post-modernist abstract expressionist style focuses on a fragmented experience of the landscape. Radebaugh tries to convey the scattered nature of memory as well as eddies that we encounter in our ordinary stream of consciousness.

His works become snapshots of the endless patterns of life, much like fractals create order within nature’s apparent chaos. Dappled by sunlight and rough textured as tree bark, Radebaugh’s surfaces celebrate nature like a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem.

Retired college art professor and lifelong landscape painter Elmer Schooley uses an aerial perspective to tilt his highly detailed landscape vignettes toward the viewer. His densely painted works are so richly layered and textured that they look like lusciously hued and heavily woven textiles. Schooley’s subjects include stands of trees, acres of prairie grasses, hillside vegetation and branches filled with leaves.

“My painting honors the integrity of the picture plane in keeping with my modernist perspective and training. Though I have avoided becoming non-objective by demanding that my paintings have a subject, I work toward an interesting surface quality in the paint that is equally as important as the subject,” Schooley said recently. “In a portrait the head is the center of attention the rest of the painting is junk. I want my paintings to be interesting over the entire surface … I’ve often said that I work by making mistakes. I put one mistake on top of another until it begins to look like something. I work on a large scale to confront the viewer. I want my paintings to be unavoidable. You may not like what you see but they grab you.”

Schooley at 88 has been painting for 73 years. He continues to paint for two or three hours a day in his Roswell studio. Schooley has completed several new paintings this year.

Globe-trotting egg tempera artist Doris Steider expresses her love for her subjects in radiant landscapes, still life and architectural compositions. Her path to success included earning her masters degree in art at the University of New Mexico. She explains that her graduate committee decided that her focus on realism was not acceptable. After failed attempts at forcing herself to see abstractly Steider demanded that her realism be honored. For her cheek her committee agreed to accept her realist work only if it was painted in egg tempera. Her struggle to learn a nearly abandoned technique gave her the means to success in the gallery world. “Once I understood the medium I loved its translucent quality. I’ve painted egg tempera ever since.”

Her luminescent landscapes are lit from within giving them a distinctive magical quality. Though Steider works from sketches and her own photography, her paintings are not copies of specific scenes or particular places. She looks for the essential emotional feeling and environmental ambiance of a place and time of day. Her painting reflects the discovered essence of a site while conveying Steider’s search for positive life affirming values in her art.

Rainy Day

Image: © Doris Steider "Rainy Day"
Egg tempera

“I find it very difficult to talk about what I do. I express myself in my art. Painting for me is like breathing and sleeping. It feeds my spirit,” Steider said.


By Wesley Pulkka, artist, critic and arts writer for New Mexico and national publications.

Originally appeared in The Wingspread Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque – Vol 19


Related Pages

Glossary of Painting & Drawing Terms article
Enduring Inspiration
article
Early American Modernists in New Mexico
article

Artists of the Santa Fe Trail article
New Mexico: Photographer's Eden
article


Collector’s Resources

Albuquerque

The Albuquerque Museum of Art & History | 505-243-7255
Concetta D Gallery | 505-243-5066
Corrales Bosque Gallery | 505-898-7203
Josie's Framery | 575-257-4156

Santa Fe

Pablo Milan Gallery | 505-820-1285
Deborah L Paisner By appointment in Santa Fe | 505-577-0240
DR Contemporary rem 123 Galisteo Street |
The Gallery Collection at La Posada Santa Fe 330 East Palace Avenue | 505-954-9668
Alexandra Stevens Gallery | 505-988-1311
Charles Azbell Gallery | 505-988-1875
Cardona-Hine Gallery | 505-689-2253
Gallery Chartreuse rem 216 Washington Ave | 505-992-3391
Chimayo Trading and Mercantile | 505-351-4566
Gallery 822 | 505-989-1700
Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art | 505-986-1156
Greenberg Fine Art | 505-955-1500
Manitou Galleries | 505-986-0440
McLarry Fine Art | 505-988-1161
Meyer East Gallery | 505-983-1657
Meyer Gallery | 505-983-1434
Nedra Matteucci Galleries | 505-982-4631
The Owings Gallery | 505-982-6244
Barbara Meikle Fine Art | 505-992-0400
Reflection Gallery | 505-995-9795
Karan Ruhlen Gallery 225 Canyon Road | 505-820-0807
Sage Creek Gallery | 505-988-3444
Selby Fleetwood Gallery | 505-992-8877
Joe Wade Fine Art | 505-988-2727
Wadle Galleries Ltd pic 128 West Palace Ave | 505-983-9219
Bill Watson pic An online service | 505-995-0773
Waxlander Gallery | 505-984-2202
Winterowd Fine Art | 505-992-8878
Zaplin Lampert Gallery | 505-982-6100

Taos

Act I Gallery & Sculpture Garden | 575-758-7831
Harwood Museum of Art | 575-758-9826
Mission Gallery | 575-758-2861
Wilder Nightingale Fine Art | 575-758-3255


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RESOURCE LISTS UPDATED WHEN VIEWED | ARTICLE CONTENT REVISED October 14, 2009

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