Beauty and balance
This story was featured in the June 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Birds, butterflies, apples, and grapes are a few of the stars in Sarah Siltala’s elegant still-life paintings. Siltala has a special fondness for birds, noting that each feathered creature reveals its distinct personality as she paints it. The birds’ expressions emerge amid light and shadow and become a reflection of the meditative act of painting, the New Mexico artist says. Indeed, Siltala’s paintings possess a meditative quality, evoking a sense of serenity and peacefulness.
The artist knows her favorite subject intimately—she is an avid bird-watcher and a member of the local chapter of the Audubon Society. “I feel a connection when I observe these shy and vulnerable creatures in their natural habitat, and I hope that connection is captured in my oil paintings,” Siltala says. “By juxtaposing their innocent natures with a manmade and composed interior still-life environment, I hope to emphasize the fragility of nature in our world.”
Although she grew up surrounded by art—her father was a potter and her mother a fiber artist—Siltala chose to study music in college. As a youngster she played both the piano and the clarinet. But while studying for her degree in music at the University of New Mexico, she experienced a growing case of performance anxiety that was difficult to overcome. Looking back she says that the “universe was telling me that I was on the wrong path.” In 1998, several years after Siltala left her music career behind, her sister, artist Mary Alayne Thomas, gave her a selection of oil-painting supplies. “It was a generous gift and helped begin my art career,” Siltala says.
The still-life artist is largely self-taught but studied in detail the painting style of 15th-century Flemish painters—a style she incorporates into her work today. The other artists who have influenced her are closer to home and to her era: “My father, Kenyon Thomas, has influenced me deeply. He raised me to see beauty everywhere and in everything,” Siltala says. “My mother, Marcia, taught me about finding balance in all things and the possibility of pursuing an art career while raising a family.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the June 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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