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Highlands’ 8th Annual Painters Exhibition to be Held Live and Virtually 

In the paining "Ernesto," by Nacho Jaramillo, a man in a brown coat and hat looks to the side. He stands in front of a fence and two bare trees can be seen behind him.

“Ernesto,” Nacho Jaramillo

August 16, 2021

Highlands University will host the 8th annual Painters Exhibition featuring 40 painters from across New Mexico.  

Although the event was only held virtually last year, the 2021 exhibition will be held both virtually and in person. The opening for the live event will take place on Sunday, September 12 from 4 to 7 p.m.  

Light refreshments will be provided outdoors, and attendees will have the opportunity to rotate through the gallery in small groups to view the paintings. Adjustments will be made as needed to accommodate any changes to COVID safety precautions.  

“We are excited that the exhibition will be open and in person this year,” said Renee Buchanan, Highlands University Art Foundation curator. “We have a few artists who joined us last year for the first time and only had the virtual exhibit, so it will be nice to see their artwork for the first time in the gallery.”  

Now that she knows how to put together a virtual show, Buchanan shares that she’s happy they’ll also be offering a virtual option in addition to the live exhibition. She said plans to carry this model forward for future exhibitions.  

“Last year the virtual show really opened it up internationally,” said Buchanan. “We’ve got artists with connections all over the world. I’m excited that we will have the show in person but that we will still be able to reach that broader audience by having a virtual version as well.” 

The exhibition will feature artists from across New Mexico and includes a handful of students from Highlands as well.  

“I’m surprised at how much color there is this year,” said Buchanan. “I don’t know if people have been at home thinking ‘gloomy pandemic–we need colorful paintings’ because it is a bright show.” 

Sandra Place’s painting, “Winter Fields,” is one vibrant example. Although the ground is blanketed in snow, bright red, orange, and yellow autumn leaves remain on the willows and cottonwoods that line the acequia in the foreground. In the background, reddish homes and blue mountains enliven the landscape. Similarly, in Steve Elmore’s “Twilight Drive,” the salmon-colored sky and gold edged mountains provide a dazzling contrast to the blues and blacks of the road and fields darkening as night falls.  

According to Buchanan, the featured artists this year are primarily from northern New Mexico, including many small communities. Among them, attendees will recognize the work of locals Meredith Britt, Nacho Jaramillo, and Janet Romero, as well as work by Santa Fe artists Kathleen Crawford, Monica Steinhoff, and Steve Elmore.  

“Often, landscape is very popular—especially northern New Mexico themes,” said Buchanan. “But we do get portraits and abstract artists as well. It is quite a wide range of interesting artwork and different styles.”  

Highlands student Estrella Encinias has been showing work at the exhibition for the past few years, and Buchanan says she’s delighted to see her development as an artist.   

“She did an exquisite portrait that’s going to be in this year’s show,” Buchanan said. “It blew me away to see how far she’s come.”  

Another favorite of Buchanan’s in the upcoming exhibition is a painting by Santa Fe artist Monica Steinhoff.  

“She did a fantastic piece of her college days at Berkeley,” said Buchanan. “There’s a lot of things happening, a lot of symbolism in the piece. It was really interesting to hear her talk about it when she came in and dropped it off.”  

Artists will be present at the opening on September 12 and will be available to answer questions and talk about their work. In addition, James Mann, co-curator of the exhibition, will be speaking at the opening to share the history of how the exhibition began.  

The Art Foundation collection, which is separate from the Highlands collection and the Donnelly Library collection, was started by Las Vegas ophthalmologist, Robert Bell, who donated a large number of prints from his own collection. Bell also founded the annual Painters Exhibition eight years ago as a way to celebrate and showcase the wide range of New Mexico painters.  

“Every year, Dr. Bell purchases one or two pieces from the show and adds it to the collection,” said Buchanan. “Part of the reason he started the show here is for students to see what’s going on with art in the area. It’s important for them to learn from other artists and they also get to participate in this show with professional artists.”