Emerging Artist | Michelle Chrisman

By Julie Osterman

Chama River Wilderness by Michelle ChrismanEndangered wilderness areas and historic buildings slated for demolition catch the artistic eye of New Mexico painter Michelle Chrisman. “I am drawn to paint endangered places in the hopes of drawing public awareness to help preserve them,” explains Chrisman, who is a founder of Wildlands Painted!, an annual fund-raiser for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “I like knowing that I could be saving something [through my work].”

Growing up in Colorado, Chrisman was always surrounded by art. Her father was a sculptor and often took her to his friends’ studios, which thrilled the budding young artist. However, her “practical” mother encouraged Chrisman to focus on the commercial art side, so she studied illustration and graphic design and worked as an art director for many years—taking courses at the Art Students Leagues in New York and Denver in her spare time. After an influential workshop with Kevin Macpherson and Ray Vinella in 1995, Chrisman made the switch to full-time fine art.

The artist, who is a member of Plein Air New Mexico and The Denver 10, isn’t afraid to use a lot of paint. “My friends say, ‘You’re a shoveler, not a painter,’” she says. “I like people to want to touch it.” Chrisman is represented by Wilder Nightingale Fine Art, Taos, NM; Jezebel Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Casa de Artistas, Scottsdale, AZ; and Christin Wolf Gallery, Albuquerque, NM.

Featured in “Artists to Watch” October 2005