Altamira Fine Art, June 1-13
This story was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Altamira Fine Art ushers in the summer season with a solo show of works by September Vhay this month. Moments in Time, which opens June 1, showcases 15 new works depicting an array of creatures, such as deer, horses, and bison. An artist’s reception takes place on June 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and includes a talk by Vhay titled The Importance of Composition. The presentation focuses on the impact of design and the ways in which it serves as a creative backbone in a painting.
Vhay knows something about design. Although mostly a self-taught artist, she received her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Oregon in 1993. While in school, she frequently designed and drew spaces in watercolor, the architect’s traditional medium of choice before the advent of computer programs. Today, when it comes to describing the style of Vhay’s work, it could best be summed up, in fact, by the words of famous 20th century architect Mies van der Rohe, who once proclaimed, “Less is more.”
While Vhay’s horses and other animals may represent quintessential western subject matter, she employs a contemporary, minimalist approach. Her portrayals of the animals are loose and expressionistic, and the backgrounds often drop away, revealing patches of negative space. Thus the viewer is left with an unadorned appreciation for the beauty and power of an animal’s anatomy, whether it is in motion or at rest.
Although Vhay is influenced by her background in architecture, the small sculptures created by her great-grandfather, Gutzon Borglum, have also had an impact on her. Borglum is best known as the artist who created Mount Rushmore’s massive carvings. For Vhay, there never was any question about what she would choose as subject matter in her paintings. She grew up with a menagerie of animals, including dogs, cats, mice, guinea pigs, chickens, horses, rats, and even a magpie that lived in her home. That exposure resulted in a strong affinity for the animal kingdom. “I feel a kindred spirit with animals, and in particular, horses,” Vhay says. “My sister and I spent many summers on our ponies, going from one magical adventure to the next. In painting horses I hope to convey some of that magic.”
The artist’s works featured in the current show are created in charcoal, oil, and watercolor. Lately, Vhay says charcoal has moved to center stage in her work because of its simplicity. Using rags, smudge sticks, erasers, and her hands, she can achieve subtle nuances, adding and subtracting the charcoal in each layer to create richness and texture. Over the years Vhay’s animal portraits have been juried into a number of prestigious shows, including Western Visions at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY, the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale in Denver, CO, and Cowgirl Up! at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, AZ. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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