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"Earth Measure Blues 17" (2012), oil on linen, 36 x 54 in. (diptych)

“Earth Measure Blues 17″ (2012), oil on linen, 36 x 54 in. (diptych)

"Earth Measure Blues 18" (2012), oil on linen, 40 x 60 in. (diptych)

“Earth Measure Blues 18″ (2012), oil on linen, 40 x 60 in. (diptych)

"Earth Measure Blues 19" (2013), oil on linen, 30 x 45 in.

“Earth Measure Blues 19″ (2013), oil on linen, 30 x 45 in.

One of my Earth Measure Blues paintings (number 12 in the series) has been accepted into an exhibit at the Albuquerque contemporary artspace 516 ARTS, with the opening from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, February 4, 2012. The exhibit will be on display through April 28, 2012.

The highly selective show, called “New Mexico Showcase,” was juried by guest juror Peter Frank, an acclaimed curator and art critic based in Los Angeles. Peter is currently Associate Editor of Fabrik magazine and art critic for The Huffington Post.

If you don’t know 516 ARTS, it is a great venue: an independent nonprofit which is a hybrid between a gallery and a museum, with a beautiful two-story space in downtown Albuquerque. Info: 516 Central Ave. SW (between 5th and 6th Streets); www.516arts.org; 505-242-1445.


Black Chord, my most recent multipanel work, consists of seven horizontal panels measuring 16×20 in. The three previous Modular Rhythms series used 14×11 in. vertical panels; it’s amazing how even such a small change of scale creates different painting problems. It was interesting to give the color black such a large role. (Like my hero Matisse, I have always used black as a color…) Click on the photo to see more images.

Last week I had the interesting experience of seeing myself in the rough cut of a video documentary called Invitation to the Muse, by producer/director Karen Cantor. Karen’s challenge was to find visual ways to explore inspiration and the artist’s process, and she did it very creatively. About 10 other Santa Fe artists, including writers and musicians, also participated.

The screening was at the Santa Fe Art Institute, where Karen has been an artist in residence for the last three months. Based in the Washington, D.C. area, Karen has produced and directed two other documentaries that have been shown on PBS stations: the award-winning video The Danish Solution: The Rescue of the Jews in Denmark, narrated by Garrison Keillor, and Last Rights: Facing End-of-Life Choices. 

Part of my color pile, which I use in my work (and teaching), is shown in the video

Back in April, when Karen and her videographer Matt came to my studio, I was afraid that I would be awkward and self-conscious in front of the camera. But I really enjoyed the videotaping process.

But participating in Karen’s project made me articulate my process in ways I don’t usually do, and made me realize that my muse is really color–for me, there’s no such thing as an ugly color. (Color combinations can be ugly, but that’s different.) The completed documentary should be shown in Santa Fe this autumn, and I’ll post information on screenings.

My latest multipanel series–Earth Red Field–will be exhibited in a group show at Linda Durham Contemporary Art is Santa Fe beginning next week. The exhibit, called “The Wonder Salon,” opens on Saturday, November 21, 2009, with an all-day reception with the artists and runs through January 4, 2010.  

"Earth Red Field," 12 panels of 20 total, oil on board, each panel: 14x11x1 in.

Earth Red Field, which consists of 20 panels, is the latest of my large multipanel series in which every panel is just a little different in composition and color from every other panel. I don’t think Donald Judd would like my paintings, but his installation of 100 milled aluminum boxes in Marfa, Texas, provided the jumping-off point for these works.

In addition to my new work, “The Wonder Salon” features the creations of a diverse group of Santa Fe women artists: Lynda F. Braun, Marina Brownlow, Rachel Darnell, Anne Farrell, Shaun Gilmore, Sondra Goodwin, Barbara Ingram, Jennifer Joseph, Joanne Lefrak, and Patricia Pierce. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. The gallery is at 1807 Second St. #107, Santa Fe, NM; 505.466.6600; www.lindadurham.com I hope you can come by and see my work in Linda’s beautiful new space.

(Photo: Sean McGarrity)

I’m now working on my third multipanel series, which I call Earth Red Field. Like Blue Gate and Orange Arc, it’s oil on 14×11 in. panels, and right now I’m planning on 20 panels total. As in the two earlier series, each panel will be a little different in composition and color from every other panel.

It took me quite a while to settle on the right composition and colors. I did around 20 small studies in gouache on Claybord or heavy watercolor paper before I finally developed a design that I love. (If I don’t love it, there’s no way I’ll be able to paint it over and over again!) Some of the studies, which are 8×10 in., may end up in future paintings. But I needed something that would continue the feeling of the first two series, and persistence paid off–I finally found it.

Along the way, I rediscovered how much I like working in gouache (opaque watercolor). For me, gouache is the medium closest to oil–you can paint light over dark, unlike watercolor, and it dries matte, unlike acrylic. I used to do a lot of work in gouache but haven’t for years.

For artists: I’ll put in a plug here for M. Graham gouache: it has a luscious feel, stays wet on the palette for quite a while, even in dry New Mexico climate, and rewets well. The manufacturer says it contains honey rather than sweeteners like corn syrup that are in other brands of gouache, and I’ll believe it (though I don’t intend to taste test). The line is oriented to artists rather than designers, so it uses lightfast pigments and omits the beautiful but fugitive colors of many other brands of gouache. M. Graham is a small artists’ paint manufacturer in West Linn, Oregon; their paints are pretty widely available both in stores and online.

As soon as some panels are dry enough to photograph, I’ll post them on this blog.

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The Salon Mar Graff show is closing this week–I’m sad to think that my 39 panels are going back into their boxes–but the exhibit went really well. I loved the installation of my paintings and very much enjoyed the work of the other artists in the show. Lots of people came, and I got excellent feedback about my work.

I was also able to get really nice installation and detail photos, some of which are posted on this blog. Click on Orange Arc and Blue Gate in the PAGES section in the column to the left. Sources for these multi-panel works: polyrhythms, Donald Judd, ways to mix taupe, African drumming, handmade minimalism…

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(Photos: Dave Robinson)

Salon Mar Graff, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will be showing some of my new, multi-panel oil paintings in an exhibit that begins Thursday, April 23, 2009. I’m very excited about this show because it will be the first time my latest work will be exhibited anywhere.

The openings are on Thursday, April 23, and Friday, April 24, from 5-8 p.m. The Salon is also having a gourmet supper (amidst the art) on Saturday, April 25, at 7 p.m.; the price for the supper is $30 and RSVP is required. After the first weekend, the show is open by appointment. For more details: www.salonmargraff.com

The show is called “Terra-Hedron,” and the other artists in this show are Matthew Chase-Daniel, Samayra Sinclaire, Diane Tintor, and Jim Klukkert.  

salon-mar-graff-invitation

My new works are multi-panel series consisting of not quite identical repeats of the same strongly-colored geometric compositions. I was inspired by an encounter with minimalist artist Donald Judd’s 100 nearly identical aluminum boxes, which I saw on a trip to Marfa, Texas, last spring. (I haven’t reached 100 yet, though the Orange Arc series has 25 panels and the Blue Gate series has 14 panels, each 14 x 11 in.)

But my work is far too colorful and inexact to be orthodox minimalism: I sometimes think of it as “handmade minimalism,” or “lyrical minimalism,” or even “minimalist expressionism.” Please come to the Salon Mar Graff show and tell me what you think!

(The header image for this blog shows part of the Orange Arc series. An installation view of part of both series is shown below.) Info on Salon Mar Graff:  25 Big Tesuque Canyon, Santa Fe, NM; 505.955.0471 (John MarGraff). Directions: From Paseo de Peralta, take Bishop’s Lodge Road. One mile past the Bishop’s Lodge Resort, make a right onto Big Tesuque Canyon. At #25, turn left up the long dirt driveway to the Salon.

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