Editor’s Letter | Making It Personal

Artists forge strong connections with their subjects

By Kristin Hoerth

Convergence of Cultures by Mian Situ.

Convergence of Cultures by Mian Situ.

This story was featured in the November 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

Mian Situ is, by all accounts, a contemporary master. For more than a decade now, he’s been winning countless prestigious awards from the entire spectrum of the art world—art experts, art patrons, and fellow artists. Moreover, the demand for his work remains strong, and large pieces regularly fetch six-figure prices. Relatively few living artists in the western art world have found such success.

So perhaps it will surprise you, as it did me, to hear Situ say this about “JOHN CHINAMAN” IN THE SIERRA, the first piece he entered in the Autry’s Masters of the American West show back in 2001: “I was not quite confident it would sell. I made sure I had a wall ready at home to hang it on if nobody bought it.”

The painting depicted Chinese railroad workers in California in the late 19th century, and it was one of the first paintings Situ had done that didn’t portray rural life in China. Of course, it not only sold, it also won the Patrons’ Choice award that year. In Norman Kolpas’ feature story on Situ (page 80), the artist explains the strong personal connection he felt—and still feels—to the stories of Chinese immigrants who came to the West to seek their fortunes in mining camps or to work on the Transcontinental Railroad; many of them came from Quangdong Province, where Situ himself was raised. It’s this sense of “human connection,” Kolpas writes, “that ultimately makes his work so compelling.”

That sense of personal connection runs throughout the issue, whether the art’s subject matter is figurative or something else. For example, New Mexico landscape painter Elizabeth Sandia (page 90) says that her primary goal is “to convey what I feel—a personal expression that is not a formula.” And Deb Kaylor perhaps sums it up best when she says, “Everything I’ve painted is a personal story. My paintings are a scrapbook of my life.” Where the connection between artist and subject is strongest, I think, the connection between artwork and viewer is bound to be strong, too.

Finally, I have heard from a number of you regarding my letter in the September issue, in which I briefly referred to this summer’s conflict in the Gaza Strip as “the violent Israeli invasion.” I sincerely apologize for my poor choice of words; my intent was only to mention the recent events and not to express a political opinion one way or the other. Southwest Art does not endorse any political positions whatsoever.

Featured in the November 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art November 2014 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!

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