Indian Hills, CO
Mirada Fine Art, March 18-April 10
This story was featured in the March 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
This month Mirada Fine Art unveils the newest works by Colorado Springs artist Roger Hayden Johnson in a solo show entitled First Light. “We’ve only had his work here for a short time,” says gallery owner Steve Sonnen. But visitors to the gallery stand in front of them “mesmerized,” he says. “His work is a bit of a departure for our gallery, but it really fits in.” An artist’s reception is from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 18, and the show runs through April 10.
The 18 works in First Light include Johnson’s popular paintings of solitary boats as well as architectural landscapes featuring lone adobe structures. “When you think about it, these subject matters are not that dissimilar,” the artist says. “I’m looking for things that are handmade, that show the effects of wear, of damage, of awkward handmade repairs. Both subjects are good metaphors; I think viewers see themselves in them.” Johnson, who considers himself an expressionist, is most interested in the feelings his work creates. “First I get their attention with the contrasting colors and values,” he says. “Then I try to keep them there with very organized eye movement, detail, and subject matter.”
The boats are “almost entirely small skiffs from northwest Spain,” and the paintings are sometimes adorned with humorous names, such as ROWED TO DAMASCUS or ROWED TO RUIN. “I have a lot of fun with the titles. They just pop into my mind as I’m painting. It keeps my left brain distracted so it doesn’t try to help me paint,” he says. Johnson finds the subject matter for his landscapes closer to home, in remote areas of northern New Mexico. Regardless of the subject matter, the artist has recently been exploring palette changes and even more isolation in his images, which, he says, “can be read as—if not a self-portrait—then as a metaphor for the human condition.” And these works, more than ever before, contain a still, quiet calm. “Almost to the point that you feel a little apprehension that something is going to change,” Johnson says.
“His boats are his most popular pieces,” Sonnen adds. “When you look at them, you want to dip your fingers into the water. If you haven’t seen his paintings in person, it’s really an experience.” —Laura Rintala
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