Santa Fe, NM, June 29-August 11
Deep in the heart of the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona, Canyon de Chelly offers a glimpse of prehistoric life. One of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North America, Canyon de Chelly is also one of the most awe-inspiring regions in the country. “It’s just a spectacular place,” says watercolorist Robert Highsmith, who visits and paints the area frequently.
The canyon is treasured for its magnificent geological structures, replete with steep canyon walls, dry riverbeds, and ancient pueblo ruins. There’s only one trail you can take into the depths of the canyon without a Navajo guide, and Highsmith knows it well. “It’s one of those places I always love to go back to,” he says. It’s also one of his favorite places to paint. His latest rendition of the canyon, titled LATE AFTERNOON, CANYON DE CHELLY, is part of a new body of work on display June 29-August 11 at Marigold Arts in Santa Fe. An artist’s reception is on June 29 from 5 to 8 p.m.
The New Mexico-based painter has been creating representational landscapes in watercolor for 40 years. Growing up in a military family, Highsmith moved frequently. Perhaps it was because he saw so many different regions that he naturally fell in love with the outdoors. Throughout his life, Highsmith has lived in landscapes as diverse as New Mexico, Alaska, and Hilton Head Island, SC. But no matter the landscape, Highsmith is inspired to paint his surroundings. “If I lived in a city I’d probably paint cityscapes,” he says, adding, “I paint things that fascinate me.”
Sometimes what fascinates Highsmith is a picturesque scene of a national monument; other times it’s a row of pecan trees that most people walk by and never really notice. Highsmith enjoys “making something beautiful out of something mundane,” he says. His focus on contrast and light, while maintaining a limited palette, brings realistic life, energy, and freshness to his paintings—no matter what the subject.
Yet Highsmith wants his work to be about more than his own interpretations. His hope is to communicate and interact with viewers through the paintings. “I want people to come and see my world, but everybody brings their own experience to [the painting]. I’m saying to the viewer, ‘Here’s what I thought was special. What do you think?’” With more than 25 new works on display this month, you can see Highsmith’s world in brilliant watercolors and answer that question for yourself. —Lindsay Mitchell
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