Las Vegas, N.M. – This year marks the sixth New Mexico Invitational Painters Exhibition at Highlands University in Las Vegas beginning with an opening reception Sept. 8 from 4–7 p.m.
“For the past five years, Highlands has hosted this one-of-a-kind juried exhibition as an invitational survey of contemporary Northern New Mexico painting that Dr. Robert Bell founded,” said Renee Buchanan, 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 such as Las Vegas and Santa Fe.”
The exhibition is in the Margaret Kennedy Alumni Hall, 905 University Ave. It continues through Oct. 31. The alumni hall 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, showcasing a comprehensive survey on the unique and excellent work produced in New Mexico,” Buchanan said.
She said the exhibition is also an exceptional opportunity for Highlands fine arts students to participate in a professional gallery exhibition and present their work.
The painting that is featured in the promotional materials for the exhibition this year is “A Squall Over Hermit’s Peak,” an award-winning watercolor painting by Las Vegas artist Jane Fritz.
Buchanan said the Las Vegas and Santa Fe communities and their 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 Texas, Colorado, Arizona and California traveling to see the phenomenal work New Mexico painters are producing,” Buchanan said.
Since its inception in 2014, the New Mexico Invitational Painters Exhibition has showcased more than 350 established and up-and-coming artists from Las Vegas and throughout Northern New Mexico.
Bell is a Santa Fe art collector, art patron, author and publisher. He is a longtime Las Vegas ophthalmologist.
“The significance of this New Mexico Painters Exhibition is that we continue to add new and established artists each year,” Bell said. “The way we’re adding new artists is by asking participating artists to make recommendations.”
Bell said something new for the painters exhibition this year is a purchase prize from the exhibition, adding an exceptional painting to the Highlands fine arts collection.
Buchanan said Bell’s enthusiasm and commitment have allowed the exhibition to grow into a cultural treasure.
“The artists all use the medium of painting, but expressions and styles emerge reflecting the cultural vibrancy and traditions of New Mexico,” Buchanan said.
Jim 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. Since 2017, Buchanan and Mann have co-curated the exhibition.
“These New Mexico artists demonstrate an accomplished awareness of contemporary developments in international art,” Mann said. “Their sophistication and creative imagination are impressive.”
Since 2012, Bell and his wife Sterling Puck have donated more than 700 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.