Legends of Fine Art | Phyllis Kapp


By Bonnie Gangelhoff

It was 25 years ago that Phyllis Kapp opened her studio on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. The studio eventually evolved into Waxlander Gallery, where over time she nurtured and represented countless other artists. Kapp has often said she is inspired by nature, specifically the landscapes of northern New Mexico. But she is quick to point out that her work stays fresh and is always changing in spite of her long-standing attraction to this rugged region as subject matter. As she points out, “Nature doesn’t do things in the same way all the time. Why should I?” The staff at her successful gallery allows her to paint full time these days, as she wanders through the state’s backcountry buttes and canyons.

Born: Chicago, IL, 1930.
Resides: Santa Fe, NM.
Proudest accomplishment: The last painting I’ve completed. Of course, I am proud of my gallery, of the many other artists it has nurtured and supported, and of my children and grandchildren.
What would you have done differently in your life? I can’t imagine wanting to have done things any differently. I really don’t have regrets. I started Waxlander Gallery 25 years ago in one room. I slept, cooked, painted, and sold my work there. I never felt poor. I had such joy in being able to do what I love to earn a living. As I expanded the gallery, I got the same joy encouraging other artists to live their dreams.
Advice to young artists: Hear your own song. Each person has a unique set of experiences and ideas. There are things only you can say and say best in your artwork. Find your voice. Be open to your own inspirations and to your trials and errors. Follow your heart.


Motto you have lived by over the years: Always stay true to yourself.
Biggest misconception about an artist’s life: I feel fortunate in not having entertained illusions about being an artist. I didn’t expect it to be easy. I didn’t expect instant fame. I expected to work hard doing what I love to do, and I have been well rewarded for the effort.
How has your work changed since starting out? My first show, about 50 years ago, was in Evanston, IL. It was all abstract. When I moved to Santa Fe, my work started being about gifts—the gifts of land, sky, flora, and fauna that are so spectacularly beautiful in every season in the Southwest.
How has the art market changed? I think people are more aware of the great power of having beauty in their homes. There are always ups and downs in the economy. The change I see is the increasing awareness, even need, for beauty in art.
Other interests: I love to garden. My garden is the birthplace of the colors in my paintings. I really enjoy watering the garden early in the day with an appreciation for how the water and light sustain all those beautiful natural colors and patterns.
Recent news: I just celebrated 25 great years of painting and owning a gallery that provides excellent exposure to so many other wonderful artists’ works.

She is represented by Waxlander Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.

Featured in “Legends of Fine Art” in December 2008