This story was featured in the December 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine December 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine December 2012 digital download here. Or simply subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
The oldest of 10 children, April Raber grew up along the wooded banks of the St. John’s River in northern Florida. As a child she spent hours in the forests, sketching and painting both intimate details and panoramic views offered by the pine trees, blackberry patches, and swamps that surrounded her home. “As a kid I was already painting outdoors before I ever heard the term plein air,” Raber says.
In high school Raber won a prestigious scholarship that allowed her to study fine art at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, as well as with prominent artists such as William Whitaker, Gary Ernest Smith, and Trevor Southey. After establishing her reputation as a landscape painter, the California-based artist says her body of work began transitioning 10 years ago from a focus on scenic landscapes to grittier urban and industrial scenes. Raber says the evolution began to unfold early one morning when she saw an oil refinery in Long Beach, CA. “There was a beautiful mist with glowing, layered plumes of smoke,” she recalls. “The lights on the structure were twinkling and floating around the structural maze. It was intensely abstract and romantic.”
Raber says she decided to embrace such scenes rather than fight them because it had become impossible for her to ignore the man-made environments that dotted the Southern California landscape. She came to believe that the work of an artist is not only to connect with the beauty of nature but also to depict the overlooked and forgotten scenes of daily life. Today Raber is a master at capturing the man-made beauty of the world outside her door—the hazy smog over downtown Los Angeles buildings, a power grid in California’s San Joaquin Valley, or the construction site for a new bridge in Oakland. Her industrial scenes are regularly juried into shows such as the California Art Club’s annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition and Sale and the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational. “One might not ordinarily link industry with beauty, but it has a powerful connection to our life experience,” Raber says. “It is just a matter of looking, then looking beyond.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the December 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine December 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine December 2012 print edition
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