Las Vegas, N.M. – A brilliant blue New Mexico sky dominated by scudding clouds is the backdrop for a view of the foothills in Joel Greene’s oil painting Interesting Clouds. Two colorful figures in bold Brazilian carnival masks stare straight ahead in Janet Stein Romero’s watercolor and gouache painting Gemini Dancers. Pueblo walls curving beneath a swirling sky evoke the ancient pueblo culture of New Mexico in Clayton Campbell’s oil on panel painting Pueblo Viejo Triptych.
These paintings illustrate the diversity of the subject matter in the Third Invitational New Mexico Painters Exhibition at Highlands University that features 32 established and up-and-coming artists.
The free exhibition opens Sept. 25 in the Kennedy Alumni Hall, 905 University Ave., with a public opening reception from 4 – 7 p.m. The featured artist Clayton Campbell will deliver a gallery talk from 3:30 – 4 p.m.
“The greatest strength of this juried show, now in its third year, is the dependably high caliber of these New Mexico artists’ impressive work,” said James Mann, exhibit curator. “Collectively, these artists are reinventing the art of painting by recovering the ability to depict recognizable subject matter, which was abandoned with the rise of abstract art in in 1950s. They are part of a growing international movement which follows postmodernism.”
Mann, who curated more than 50 exhibitions from 1996 – 2005 for the Las Vegas Art Museum in Nevada, said most of the artwork in the Highlands exhibition employs figural rather than abstract representation.
“There is a broad range of thought-provoking subject matter representing contemporary life such as portraiture, landscapes, still-life, social interaction, biblical reference, interior spaces and commercial settings,” Mann said.
Many of the paintings will be available for purchase.
Robert Bell, a Santa Fe art collector, art patron, author and publisher, spearheaded the invitational exhibition for the third year. The Highlands Foundation collaborated with Bell to produce the exhibition. It continues through Nov. 10 and is open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
“I chose Clayton Campbell to be the featured artist in this exhibition because his work is an important part of the Highlands permanent collection and shows how an artist can evolve,” Bell said. “Clayton is an internationally acclaimed artist who started his career in New Mexico painting dramatic images like his Pueblo Viejo Triptych followed by his tour de force series of map paintings depicting global social injustice from the repression of women and minorities to the horror of death squads.”
Bell said Campbell’s work is riveting, dramatic and technically complex.
“Clayton’s work has evolved into compelling multimedia constructions,” Bell said.
Campbell said his work is not political art, but often has a quality of social commentary.
“I came of age during the Vietnam War and this generation of artists was deeply interested in civil rights, human rights, the anti-war movement and civil freedoms,” Campbell said. “This infused our sensibilities as artists, including a great number of us in New Mexico.”
Campbell’s award-winning work is in permanent international collections such as Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and Kampo Kai-Kan Museum in Kyoto, Japan. Stateside, examples include the Phoenix Fine Art Museum, University of New Mexico Art Museum, Center for Political Graphics in Los Angeles and Library of Congress 9/11 Print and Drawing Collection in Washington, D.C.
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. More than 70 of these pieces are by Clayton Campbell.
“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.