Emerging Artists | Melinda LIttlejohn

Melinda Littlejohn, Anasazi Spiral With Thistle, oil, 13 x 16.

Melinda Littlejohn, Anasazi Spiral With Thistle, oil, 13 x 16.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Within her softly lit, monochromatic still-life paintings, Melinda Littlejohn offers viewers a place to dwell in pure silence. “I try to make my work whisper, not shout,” says the artist, who routinely paints at night by candlelight. “I’m looking for poetry in commonplace objects and quiet arrangements.”

Littlejohn, a classically trained artist, worked in the animation industry in California for many years, but in her spare time, she painted in a style she describes as minimalist abstraction. After moving to New Mexico in 2010 to paint full time, she noticed a gradual aesthetic shift in her work. “I was really influenced by the light and by my history here,” says Littlejohn. “My images became more realistic. I started to explore what was around me.”

Working from her adobe studio in a small village near Taos, the artist is deeply inspired by her roots in the area. Her aunt Helen Martin founded the historic Taos Inn, where the Taos Society of Artists was born, and Littlejohn spent much of her childhood painting and sketching alongside the artists who visited the salon. She also painted the horses her parents raised, and she showed them on the western show circuit. Littlejohn herself later owned horses, and today she paints their portraits from memory.

The earthenware from the artist’s collection of North American Indian pottery is another recurring inspiration, and she frequently pairs a single vessel with plant life on a stone slab or other simple surface in the tradition of Spanish bodegónes. “The space surrounding an object is my main concern, and how the light is placed around it in that negative space,” she says. “That’s my language. Beauty is in the shadows for me.”

Find Littlejohn’s work at Total Arts Gallery, Taos, NM; Howell Gallery, Oklahoma City, OK; and Capital Fine Art, Austin, TX.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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