Fifth New Mexico Invitational Painters Exhibition Opens Sept. 9 at Highlands


Winter Light oil on panel by Priscilla Wiggins

Las Vegas, N.M. – This year marks the Fifth New Mexico Invitational Painters Exhibition at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas beginning Sept. 9 and will be the first year the show travels to Santa Fe.

“For the past four years Highlands has hosted this one-of-a-kind exhibition as an invitational survey of contemporary Northern New Mexico painting that Dr. Robert Bell founded,” said Renee Buchanan, the Highlands Foundation art curator. “Since then, the exhibition has provided an enriching experience for the Highlands student community as well as Northern New Mexico communities. This year we hope to establish an exciting and unique tradition by having the show travel to Santa Fe.”

The Highlands Foundation produces the annual New Mexico Invitational Painters Exhibition in collaboration with Bell. It is the only juried exhibition of its kind in the state. The opening reception is Sept. 9 from 4 – 7 p.m. in Kennedy Alumni Hall, 905 University Ave. The free exhibition continues through Sept. 28 and is open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

“This is an important exhibition because it’s the only venue where contemporary New Mexican painters can exhibit their work together, providing an in-depth look at the current manifestation of art in the state,” Buchanan said.

The exhibition travels to the Santa Fe County Administration Building at 102 Grant Ave. with an opening reception Oct. 14 from 5 – 7 p.m. The Santa Fe exhibition continues through Nov. 8.

“We hope to broaden the number of artists and viewers, making the exhibition even more accessible to Northern New Mexico communities. Plans call for it to travel to Santa Fe biennially,” said Buchanan who co-curated the exhibition with Jim Mann in 2017 and will do the same this year.

Since its inception in 2014, the New Mexico Invitational Painters Exhibition has showcased more than 200 established and up-and-coming artists from Las Vegas, Santa Fe and throughout Northern New Mexico. This year, the exhibition includes 46 artists and 103 artworks.

Bell is a Santa Fe art collector, art patron, author and publisher. He is a longtime Las Vegas ophthalmologist.

“I’ve always envisioned that this annual painters exhibition at Highlands would have more than one venue,” Bell said. “Santa Fe is an obvious choice for this second exhibition site and more locations might be added in the future.”

Buchanan said Bell’s enthusiasm and commitment have allowed the exhibition to grow into a cultural treasure.

“Each year, the excitement for the exhibition gains momentum with new artists wanting to participate,” Buchanan said. “While all the artists share the common medium of painting, we have always had a wide range of styles in the exhibition ranging from figurative to abstract.”

Mann, who curated more than 50 exhibitions for the Las Vegas Art Museum in Nevada, curated the New Mexico Invitational Painters Exhibition from 2014 – 2016.

“These New Mexico artists demonstrate an accomplished awareness of contemporary developments in international art,” Mann said. “Their sophistication and creative imagination are impressive.”

Buchanan said the Las Vegas community and its artists have always been big supporters of the New Mexico Invitational Painters Exhibition, spreading the word so the show now has out-of-state visitors.

“We’re seeing art lovers from Colorado, Texas and Arizona traveling to see the phenomenal work New Mexico painters are producing,” Buchanan said.

Since 2012, Bell and his wife, Sterling Puck, have donated more than 500 paintings to the Dr. Robert Bell and Dr. Sterling Puck Permanent Art Collection at Highlands.

“The reason we donate art to Highlands is that the university uses it as a teaching collection for students and the community,” Bell said.

Since 2001, Bell has also donated more than 2,000 original fine art prints to Highlands and teaches a popular print lecture series at the university.