Editor’s Letter | Beyond & Beneath

By Kristin Hoerth

What makes a master artist? That’s the question we asked ourselves as we put together this issue of Southwest Art, with its special Masters of the Medium theme. The dictionary defines a master as someone eminently skilled in an occupation, art, or science, and the four artists profiled in our pages certainly fit that definition. They have indeed mastered their chosen mediums of oil, watercolor, pastel, and bronze. And it’s fascinating to read the four articles together, appreciating the differences in texture and technique from one media to the next.

Afternoon Light by Dan McCaw

But I believe there’s more to being a master than mere skill or command of technique. That skill is crucial, to be sure, but there must also be a strong desire and ability to continually push oneself into uncharted territory, to dig deeper and go further than one did the day before. That’s the impetus behind Dan McCaw’s new oils, which expand our understanding of so-called objective reality by eliminating details and concentrating instead on “harmony of shape, design, and texture.” Says McCaw, “Changes drives creativity. It’s like stepping in wet cement—the more you stand in one place, the more difficult it becomes to move on.”

Sculptor Bart Walter would likely agree. Exploration, in a literal sense of the word, has always been an important part of his life; he’s a fellow at the international Explorers’ Club. “That aspect of life is a large part of who I am … a personal exploration of things that are new to me,” he says. And just as McCaw’s oils reveal the heart and soul of his subject, Walter aims to capture the essentials: “If I can reveal some intangible spirit, make evident the soul of my subject … then I have accomplished something real,” he says.

Dean Mitchell, too, wants to convey the spirit and character of the subjects of his watercolors. And pastelist Lorenzo Chávez seeks in his landscapes “to get that sense of history, the land, and its connection with people before us and after us,” he says. “I’m hoping the strokes, or the pigments, or the edge qualities will communicate beyond the surface …and resonate deeper.” I think you will agree that Chávez and his three fellow artists succeed in creating works that resonate deeply.
Another artist whose work has made a strong impression on countless viewers passed away recently: Clark Hulings died on February 2 in Santa Fe, NM; he was 88. A leading American realist painter, Hulings traveled the world looking for the rural and urban landscapes and genre scenes that became his subjects. His scheduled exhibition of paintings at the Forbes Galleries in New York takes place March 23 through June 18. Hulings will be greatly missed by collectors and fellow artists alike. -April 2011