Show Preview | Gallen, MacLeod & Robertson

Borrego Springs, CA
Borrego Art Institute, January 6-30

Cecilia Robertson, Winter Dusting, oil, 8 x 16.

Cecilia Robertson, Winter Dusting, oil, 8 x 16.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Borrego Springs is a small town in Southern California surrounded by barren mountains and the arid landscape of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. “The area and the town looked forgotten,” says painter Cecilia Robertson. “With the developed area of Palm Springs so close, it’s like going back in time.” This is where Robertson, along with fellow artists Bill Gallen and Lee MacLeod, set up their easels during a workshop last year, and where they later returned to continue to draw inspiration from its pristine isolation.

“The first time I discovered this area I was traveling to visit family, and when we came through, I was immediately beguiled by it,” Gallen says. MacLeod remembers visiting the area as a kid. “I always thought the desert was fascinating, and I was completely taken with the bugs and the bunnies around there,” he says. “To be able to go back and paint in the same area was very exciting.”

The work they created during that time is the subject of a new exhibition at the Borrego Art Institute this month. The show, titled The Bright Wild: Three Visions of the Anza-Borrego Desert, opens on Saturday, January 6. An artists’ reception is held on Saturday, January 27, at 7:30 p.m. The show includes about 20 pieces—a combination of plein-air paintings and works completed in their studios.

The trio works together often as part of the Bettina Steinke Group in Santa Fe, where they use Steinke’s historic studio as a collaboration space. Gallen says they all draw inspiration from Steinke (1913-1999), a prominent western painter and muralist.

Although the group is used to working in similar desert environments, there were still several differences in the park that presented both challenges and new ideas. “There’s a very different air quality there that’s kind of dusky and hazy, and it’s very different compared to the clear atmosphere we’re used to in New Mexico,” Robertson says. “It really changed the color tones and values as we tried to see what the light was doing on the mountains.” MacLeod says the vegetation was different as well. “There are palm trees and a lot of fairly exotic plants,” he says. “It’s a very harsh, but very pretty, environment.” The painters were also able to observe a group of bighorn sheep, as well as a rare “super bloom” of wildflowers in the area after an unusually rainy season.

Because the trio traveled together, many of the pieces show the same location from different points of view. “When we hit a spot that we decided we’d stay at, we would all have our individual responses to it,” Gallen says. “Even though we were in shouting distance from each other, the paintings still look quite different.”

“I think we were all just struck with the magic of the place and its unprecedented vastness,” Robertson says. “But we each have our own personal interpretation so that we get to see each other’s specific handwriting in our paintings.” —Mackenzie McCreary

contact information
760.767.5152
www.borregoartinstitute.org

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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