Work Statement / solo at Altamira Fine Art in Scottsdale

I have a solo exhibit - “Tributary” - at Altamira Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ, up in January 2019. Here’s my very long statement about this group of paintings, all made en plein air as is the case with most of my landscape work: 


Painting is many things to me: A teacher, a playground, a taskmaster, and an act of respite, to name a few. Each show I produce adds new contours to my understanding. Tributary came together quickly, without any real hiccups. Yet like a river glassy and calm on the surface, but with a swift current beneath, making this show was an almost paradoxical endeavor. More than other shows it was borne of the easy and the difficult, the wild and the controlled; calm paintings emerged from upheaval, trying paintings from calm days. It became an education in existing within complexity.

The work in Tributary predominately portrays loosely objective images of Northern New Mexico. Like most of my landscape work, the paintings resulted from an unscripted process. They spontaneously started outside amidst the elements, in the rhythm of a particular day and its weather, and then progressed from on-location painting to a culmination in my studio in Taos.

Tributary’s paintings build on work from the last several years and are - in my estimation - most dynamic and engaging when viewed up-close as well as from afar. They are paintings of specific places, but they’re about the physical object as much as anything; about the tangible, textural, inspirational material that is oil paint. From ten feet away they appear as rivers or storms or foliage. Closer up they reveal a cacophony of marks, sometimes garish colors pushed to the limits of believability, and passages that teeter on the precipice of collapse.

Together the paintings further lines of artistic inquiry that I have been eager to explore – some being about specific subject matter and compositional choices, but the gestalt of which is the balance of chaos and control that I believe sustains dynamism in art. Engaging this flux brought up questions of a dual nature, ones that applied to art and life beyond the canvas: about perspective and context; about appropriate conduct and effort; about how one sees, what one misses or actively ignores, and what one embraces or refuses within art-making and wider life.

Shows are shaped by their context and they come into focus in relation to their background. Tributary grew out of the mundane as well as the harrowing and heartbreaking. Much of the context was just a full family life being lived, the seemingly small things that pepper any given day: the baby needs a diaper change for the third time this hour; the dog is up all night because he got into the neighbor’s trash. We don’t sleep, our baby doesn’t sleep, five teeth come in in one week; a grumpy morning, a fun trip, a chance meeting.

Yet these mundane things were recast by Big Things: life and death, safety, illness, home, war and peace. Small stuff became simultaneously more meaningful and important, and less so. So too did the reason for art, and for making this show – its value, potential, and role as witness, expression, and tribute became imminently apparent and also receded amidst survival-level realities.

In late October, for example, a neighbor was gunned down a few blocks from our home, where I painted “Here and then gone.” The victim – a neighborhood Crime Stopper – was shot in the belly in front of the community center, at the heart of our rural village.

During a trip abroad, while searching for the inspiration for paintings like “Skyward,” a taxi driver absentmindedly drove off when my wife and one-year old daughter were still getting into the car. They were dragged and nearly crushed on the concrete curb of an Edinburgh street; I was right there and yet unable to do anything about it. A momentary lapse in attention on the driver’s part nearly decimated all our lives. And miraculous happenstance had us all walk away.

The day we arrived back in the US, news outlets flashed headlines of bombs being mailed to public figures around the country. O’Hare Airport’s atmosphere was thick with tension and unease. It remained the predominate story while I painted “Meanwhile, in New Mexico,” the first piece I made back in the U.S.A. That same week, down the road from where I painted “Atmospherics,” someone was robbed. It’s not the first time.

Work developed in step with these background events. Big things and small things occupied my attention together; both deeply shaped how and when I could work. They shaped what I could paint. They shaped the manner in which I approached the paintings. And their complexity – the webs of cause and effect – was an  animating force that brought each work to conclusion.

I wondered in “Skyward” how the barely-seen and seemingly insignificant can hold so much power, can say so little and impact so much. In the river paintings, I wrestled with right action in the face of encroachment and imposition – on my time, on my property, in business; with where “good” work originates, how it happens despite my faux pas’, and how much I actually have to do with it. The snowy piece, “Here and then gone,” arose out of worry for my family’s safety and the exhilaration of being alive in a pounding snowstorm. “Meanwhile, in New Mexico,” with its fall colors and pastoral view, developed in tandem with anxiety for the country’s future, nervousness about being robbed, and distraction about getting our daughter to bed on time. “The midline” appeared out of deep reverence for the Rio Grande in fall as well as out of uncertainty regarding complications from chronic medical issues.

All this makes these paintings, for me, poignant reminders and ongoing teachers. They contain some of the context in which they were made. They were borne in response to the beautiful and the awful, and they inform responses to such things moving forward. They show me when I went off the rails, or when a challenge was leavened some by making art, or when I learned something new about painting or took a creative risk that brought a big reward. This is why I especially treasure process-evident painting: a story of each painting’s development is apparent on the canvas and in the paint’s nature. In its tone, manner, and topography one can see and feel momentum, mood, and vitality. There is joy and stagnancy. There is struggle and reconciliation. It’s all right there, collected, together building towards a larger coherence and meaningfulness.

Yet part of the miracle of art is its simultaneity: it is personal and universal at once. It’s essential and yet we can live without it. It can change lives, it can change the world; it can do so and still disappear without a trace. As an artist, art is much about the making and what transpires during the making. I remember my stories, my realizations. But the artwork has a life of its own, too. It travels into the world and instigates experiences that are about more than the content of a given work, and certainly about something more than the artist. The artwork can speak to life more broadly; it reaches others at levels that are uniquely personal and often surprisingly interconnected. 

These paintings were made in tribute to art and life, to inspiration, and to the rejuvenating wildness that exists in nature and our most inventive and beautiful moments as humans. And they were also made in response to some of the saddening, maddening, and upsetting facets of humanity. Tributary exists because of something far greater, larger, and more important than the paintings that make up the show: a rich, baffling complexity to which we all are vital, a complexity that animates the ever-flowing ever-changing watercourse that is human endeavor.


Solo exhibit in Phoenix/Scottsdale starting Feb. 5th

The old apple tree, 48" x 72", painted on location in Taos, NM. 

The old apple tree, 48" x 72", painted on location in Taos, NM. 

My second solo exhibit at Altamira Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ, opens in February. The Artist reception is February 8th. I'm proud of this group of work and excited to see it hang together. It was painted on-location in Taos and gave me a fresh perspective on my process. Here's a show statement: 

"Every show has a rhythm to its making; usually at some point a prevailing sentiment coalesces and informs the final body of work and show title. This show is an homage, of sorts, to places that I had been missing amidst the daily grind, moments and locations I had hurried by for years on my way to some meeting or event or whatever else was occupying my attention.

It was a pleasure and privilege to deliberately find them again, and be surprised by new places I’d yet seen. It took some doing, but eventually each piece convinced me to stop where I thought was a pointless place to stop, or was too out of the way, or was too much of an inconvenience of another sort. And there they were: these paintings waiting beside highways and main streets, in historic valleys people now speed through at 80 mph, on little old lanes left behind in favor of the big new road. 

The process of making each piece felt almost like a parable about modern day - a tale of things that the freneticism of our fast world can make seem so urgent, and what is forgotten as a result. I found that I’d been missing the quiet-time before sunset, the stories big trees tell, old orchards, the atmospheric density of a rainy storm filling a high valley, and more. 

One of the messages I got from making these paintings has especially stuck with me now that the work is done: always there will be more to find by the wayside, and it’s worth the detour."

Award at 2018 Coors Art Exhibit

My work was awarded the Fine Art Connoisseur Award of Excellence at the 2018 Coors Art Exhibit in Denver. It's the second year in a row my work was awarded the honor– fun! I'm also happy to say my paintings sold out opening night at the reception and during the silent auction.  

At the foot of Cerro Pedernal, 48" x 118", private collection

At the foot of Cerro Pedernal, 48" x 118", private collection

Included in "New Regionalisms" exhibit curated by Michael Paglia

Spring's welcome return, 40" x 70", oil on linen. Painting on location south of Santa Fe, NM. 

Spring's welcome return, 40" x 70", oil on linen. Painting on location south of Santa Fe, NM. 

My work is featured in a group exhibit of contemporary artists practicing in the Western States at the McNichols Building in Denver. It's an exciting show in that it provides a dynamic perspective on contemporary art making in the Western US. Here is the writeup: 

"From the group of artists represented by Denver's William Havu Gallery, art critic Michael Paglia has selected a group of contemporary artists active in Colorado and other Western states. The artists chosen for inclusion in New Regionalisms work in a wide array of stylistic modes. Interestingly, many of these artists, not only those who are interested in representation, but also those who work abstractly, typically infuse their pieces with what could be called Western content, if only because they are, by definition, Western artists living in the region. Selected artists hail from Colorado, but also from other Western states including New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona and Texas. Considering the Western core of New Regionalisms, there are the expected contemporary takes on the landscape, the main current of art in the West for more than a century, as well as abstract work that ranges from expressionist to hard-edged, likewise trading in Western themes."

Solo show opens at Altamira Fine Art - Scottsdale today

My most recent solo, "Our Land," opens today in Scottsdale, AZ. Altamira Fine Art has done a great hang and I'm really looking forward to seeing it in person. The show runs through February 18, 2017. I plan to attend the opening reception Thursday February 9th from 6:30 - 9:00 pm. 

Here's the digital catalogue for the exhibit: 

Thrumcap Island from Pemaquid Point, 36" x 58", 2016. Painted on location in Maine. 

Thrumcap Island from Pemaquid Point, 36" x 58", 2016. Painted on location in Maine. 

Award at Coors Art Show in Denver

My work won the Fine Art Connoisseur award at the 2017 Coors Art Show in Denver. What a great surprise and honor! Thanks to Fine Art Connoisseur and the Coors Art Show for the recognition. 

Article in December 2016 Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine

Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine features an article on my work titled, "A Respect for the Land," on page 114 of the December 2016 issue. The six page article tracks my process and motivations and includes photography from my studio as well as with me on location, in addition to images of recent paintings.

Here is a link to the web version: 

Photo by Wendy McEahren. Courtesy Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine.

Photo by Wendy McEahren. Courtesy Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine.

"For the Wild," solo show in Taos, NM, opens Sept. 23

Visitation, 23" x 74", oil on canvas, 2016, available through Heinley Fine Arts – (617) 947-9016 or

Visitation, 23" x 74", oil on canvas, 2016, available through Heinley Fine Arts – (617) 947-9016 or

"For the Wild" is my third solo show in Taos, NM, with Heinley Fine Arts. The paintings in it are a "thank you", of sorts, to the wild places and things that supported the work. It's a big show with around 40 pieces, including eight paintings from my newest series, "Lone Tree." You can view works on hand at Heinley Fine Arts' website (link). 

The opening reception is 9/23 from 5 - 8pm, and the show runs through October. 

Heinley Fine Arts is located at 119 Bent Street, Taos, NM, 87571 (map)

Artist Focus at Altamira Fine Art - Jackson, WY, Aug. 1 - 6

I have a great group of paintings that will be on view at Altamira Fine Art - Jackson August 1 - 6, 2016, in my Artist Focus show titled "Atmosphere." Here is a link to the gallery's page for the show, and a direct link to the images of works included. The gallery is located at 172 Center Street, Jackson, WY

Here's the show statement:

"The paintings in Atmosphere were inspired by atmosphere that is both near and far: the one that extends for hundreds of miles to the horizon, its storms reaching cacophonous heights, and the quiet, intimate one that envelops our structures in sun-infused morning air or imbues all we see with pillowy softness. 

In painting this body of work I aimed to hold three things equal: conveying the mood of distinct moments of weather and light, relaying recognizable imagery, and handling paint such that the creative process is made visible and the raw material remains a central part of a painting’s reason for being. 

If I’m successful, viewing the work will become a dynamic experience, both active and relaxing. Rhythmic marks of paint will coalesce into recognizable imagery and convey unique sentiments, and then disassemble again into raw material and pure slabs of color. In this flux, the works will become as much about the experience of seeing and perceiving as about the scenes depicted." 


Here is the ISSUU eCatalogue for the show, too:

Solo exhibition at LewAllen Galleries March 25 - April 24, 2016

“New Mexico,” a solo exhibit from March 25th - April 24th, opens this Friday in Santa Fe. It's a show about this uniquely affecting place and my appreciation of it – expressed by way of paintings made on-location around the state. Here is a link to the Issuu digital exhibit catalogue, featuring an essay by Ken Marvel (It's also below). 

The opening will be March 25th at LewAllen Galleries' Santa Fe Railyard location (Across from SITE Santa Fe): 1613 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM, 87501. For information or purchase inquiries, contact LewAllen Galleries at (505) 988-3250 or or visit the gallery website at

May 2015 newsletter – Big show opening May 8th in Denver & more

The northward slope and the sunset light , 39" x 63". 

The northward slope and the sunset light, 39" x 63". 

My first major exhibit of 2015 opens Friday at William Havu Gallery! It'll be the biggest exhibition of my work to-date in Denver. I'll be exhibiting in the main gallery beside renowned painter and fellow paint-lover, James Pringle Cook. Upstairs in the mezzanine area will be David Warner.

I shipped off the exhibition's works a couple days ago and I'm very excited about the group. The pieces seem to be an elaboration of some aesthetic threads I've been exploring – especially the notion of abstraction infused into recognizable landscape – and also represent an integration of a few things with which I've been experimenting. Veils of juniper and snow, 20" x 30" (below), for example, unites ideas from some of my flatter horizon experiments with some of my moody atmosphere studies. And The northward slope and the sunset light.......

See the entire May 2015 newsletter – with more images and a couple exhibition announcements – here. You can also sign up to receive Jivan's newsletters directly in your inbox here. You'll get one every month or two and can easily unsubscribe.