Catching Up With Erin Cone

By Amanda Walck

Five years ago this month, New Mexico artist Erin Cone had a taste of the artistic success she is enjoying today. Not only was she featured as an up-and-comer in Southwest Art’s annual emerging artists issue, but her first solo show debuted on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. It was a sell-out.

Since then she has mounted nearly a dozen solo shows. “All of my shows are special to me, and I put a great deal of work into them,” says Cone, noting that she focuses her energy on developing a distinct look and feel for each one. “Each show gives me a chance to explore something new while further clarifying my artistic vision.”

Cone describes her figurative paintings as “distilled realism.” Emphasizing the interplay of positive and negative space, she places the figure in minimalist compositions devoid of narrative. “I want to show the emotion left behind when the context is taken away,” she says. “I am continually inspired by the human form and by the complexity and subtlety of emotion conveyed through a simple pose or gesture.”

Her stylized acrylic portraits have become more refined over time, both technically and conceptually. “Each year, I take the basic principles that motivate my work and go a little deeper with them, refining my visual vocabulary to better express what I want to say,” she notes. “I feel I’m a better painter just for the sheer number of hours I get to spend painting.”

Cone’s hard work has taken her career to a new level: Her paintings have been increasingly in demand, her prices have doubled in the past five years, and her gallery representation has expanded with her growing recognition. Cone’s first West Coast solo show at Hespe Gallery in San Francisco in 2006 was important to her as a marker of success. “It was a high point for me in terms of sales, recognition, and in the culmination of a long-term goal I had set for myself,” she says. Her next big goal is to add a studio onto her house.

“I have worked hard every step of the way, and I’m very grateful to have reached this point in my career at such a young age,” says the 32-year-old artist. “I feel very fortunate for finding success in doing what I love.”

She is represented by Nuart Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Melissa Morgan Fine Art, Palm Desert, CA; Wally Workman Gallery, Austin, TX.

Featured in September 2008