Catch up with 12 artists who were named rising stars years ago
This story was featured in the May 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
W. Bennett Berry
Christopher Owen Nelson
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? I think my paintings have a softer feel. I’ve become more sensitive to color, and I’m giving more consideration to my edges.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? Being invited to participate in the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Cowgirl Up. Both of those shows have amazing art, and I am so pleased to be a part of them.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? A few years ago I started plein-air painting on a regular basis. I could tell my work was missing something, and that’s what I needed to be doing. It’s definitely changed the way I see things.
What are your goals for the future? My main goal is to improve my skills as an artist. There are so many aspects to painting, and I’ve just begun to understand them. I feel like there is still a huge world in front of me that I haven’t explored. I’ve also just started some sculpting. I’m still far from having anything cast. I like that it’s different from painting, but I think it will help me improve as a painter by teaching me to look at things in a different way.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? Fortunately my work continues to unfold in the same direction.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? Marrying my wife, Jennifer; building a sustainable custom home/studio; and completing a 20-foot-tall monument called FOLDING PLANES. Realizing a life of creative freedom that enables me to live, work, travel, and express myself artistically is priceless.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? There are three. First was embracing origami as an integral part of my work. Origami has contributed to my authentic voice. Second was being able to hire my wife as my business manager. She has brought so much more capacity to what I can accomplish. Third was going to Southeast Asia and meeting the family of craftsmen and craftswomen at TMC foundry. They have made a great impact on my career.
What are your goals for the future? Origami in the Garden is an exhibition of monumental sculptures inspired by the art of paper folding. The exhibit debuts at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden in New Mexico in 2014, and it includes more than 20 works that inspire dialogue on topics like decision-making, social responsibility, peace, mathematics, and the creative process. Over the next decade, my goal is to share this exhibition in the most beautiful gardens in the United States and abroad.
What galleries represent your work? Selby Fleetwood Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Craighead Green Gallery, Dallas, TX; Thornwood Gallery, Houston, TX; Ramey Fine Art, Palm Desert, CA; Rare Gallery of Fine Art, Jackson, WY; The Vickers Collection, Aspen, CO; Vail Village Arts, Vail, CO; Trudy Labell Fine Art, Naples, FL; National Sculptors’ Guild and Columbine Gallery, Loveland, CO; Gallery Pez Gordo, San José del Cabo, Mexico; Whistler Village Art Gallery, Whistler, BC, Canada.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? A few years ago I decided that when it came to my work, I would just maintain tunnel vision and create whatever I wanted, no matter how silly the idea. I would rely on my own inspiration. When I was featured previously, I was fresh out of art school and still heavily influenced by the school’s culture. Now, I paint what makes me smile or what I would like to see. For example, previously my work was very dramatic and featured dysfunctional relationships. Now I’m working on a series based on chicken and bird clichés, which stemmed from a conversation I had with some friends at a bar. They told me I could only get them to model for me if the guy got to wear a chicken suit. Brilliant!
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? I feel like I haven’t had a major, career-changing turning point yet. Finding my own voice is what I’m most excited about and inspired by lately. Maybe the life-changing turning point will happen as a result.
What are your goals for the future? My goal is to get my work in front of eyeballs. I want to create images that people can laugh at and with—to create iconography of everyday people. With any luck, my work can inspire a few new art collectors in the world.
What galleries represent your work? The Good Art Company, Fredericksburg, TX.
How has your artwork changed since you were named an Artist to Watch? At that time, I had only been painting for three years. You can take classes and study with great instructors, but there is not a better teacher than the experience of filling numerous empty white canvases. That experience has matured my artwork more than anything.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? I’ve been in numerous shows; that always drives me as an artist to reach further. Last year I was chosen to represent Rocky Mountain National Park in the book Art of the National Parks. It was such a fantastic project, and I was so honored to be a part of it.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating my direction the last couple of years and have these great concepts that I am excited about executing. It’s hard to get out of your foxhole and do work that is not automatic.
What are your goals for the future? I have been selected to participate in an art show at Mary Williams Fine Arts in Boulder, CO, in June. Also, I have a solo show this fall at Aspen and Evergreen Gallery in Estes Park, CO. I live five minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, and I’m helping to create art events for the park’s 100 Year Anniversary Celebration beginning this year. The park will host the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters (of which I am a member) in September and again in August 2015.
What galleries represent your work? Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, CO; Elk Horn Art Gallery, Winter Park, CO; Aspen and Evergreen Gallery, Estes Park, CO; Rich Timmons Studio & Gallery, Doylestown, PA.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? The simplest answer is that I spend more time on my work. My concepts are more thought out, there are more layers, and my vocabulary has more detail and depth. My nods to modern art movements are more pronounced and identifiable, and my line work has become a focused voice on its own.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? My greatest accomplishment is that I’m still happy to be here—that art still brings me the greatest joy. The career of an artist can be fraught with uncertainty. The highs can be out of this world and the lows, at times, unbearable. To show up with a confident smile on my face and good work means something different to me now than it did back then. Wisdom, perspective, and respect come with time.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? The realization that effectively sustaining exquisite creativity is all about appreciation, respect, and love for who you are and what you do. It took me some hard losses and some serious soul-searching to understand that my art has to come first in order to create work at the level that I find acceptable.
What are your goals for the future? Constant evolution, positive presence, and streamlined creativity. I’d like to become a source for positive change in our community. Art has been the one constant in my life that has always brought me peace. If I can help that be a reality for someone else in need, no matter how fleeting the moment, then my goal is met.
What galleries represent your work? www.acatalaniart.com.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? My work has matured, with a more complex color palette and a distinctive technique allowing me to explore how subjects relate. I have fewer restrictions on my work now and find that the work is more successful when I step away from what I “should” do with a painting and simply let it happen.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? In the studio it is rewarding to understand the direction my work wants to take and allow this to happen. As a fine artist, my process continues to evolve. Every day is new and allows for exploration and something fresh to enter the canvas.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? The turning point comes every morning when I pick up my brushes. For me, big changes happen gradually over time. Looking back I see small moves that have shaped my work.
What are your goals for the future? What works for me is staying in the moment and not putting the pressure of goals on my art.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? When I was featured then I think I was only 21 years old, and I only had a handful of finished paintings to my name. They were mainly still lifes of sporting birds and western landscapes.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? Perhaps being included in shows like the Masters of the American West at the Autry National Center, the Birds in Art exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, and the Night of Artists at the Briscoe Western Art Museum. I feel honored and humbled to be able to show with so many talented people and friends.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? I don’t know if I have had a turning point in my career just yet. I strive to make each painting unique and represent my vision of preserving the heritage of the American West.
What are your goals for the future? My goals include refining what I already do. I want to slow down and observe nature more. I want the time to be out in nature, find the best things to bring home to the studio with me to paint, and live a little more in each moment while it lasts. I want to keep each painting longer in the studio, so it gets the attention it deserves. Then, when it ends up in someone’s house, they know I took special care in making it the best painting I could paint.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 under 31? I have grown and changed in style over the years, but my emotional input and connection to my work continues to tell meaningful life stories.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? Some of my greatest accomplishments have been building two waterfowl wildlife sanctuary farms with my father, Dr. Robert J. Schiller, a wildlife research biologist. He was my greatest art activist and teacher of wildlife ecology. Wildlife conservation groups, such as the National Park Service and Ducks Unlimited, have given my sculptures as awards of excellence. Another accomplishment was being paid by Colorado Outdoors magazine for writing my sheep-hunting story “40 Days.”
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? My biggest turning point is now. Every day I have free will to dedicate my life to art, to tell a story with the tools I have acquired along the way.
What are your goals for the future? I want to hunt, fish, sculpt, paint, and write, as I do now. I want to witness life and tell the story of what I find meaningful. I will try to follow in the footsteps of artists such as Audubon, Rungius, and Sargent. I want to continue in the traditional style of art and art training. I will be offering spring and fall wildlife art workshops on my farms with access to thousands of acres to inspire. My main goal is for one or more of my sculptures to not be melted down for scrap metal but be seen by people thousands of years from now as witness to current wildlife conservation efforts.
What galleries represent your work? www.cwschiller.com.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 under 31? My paintings are always evolving, as every artist’s should. I am always looking for new ways to interpret images, whether through new mediums, color palettes, or approaches. Carving and children’s book illustration have been new directions for me. Navajo cultural teachings will always be the foundation of my work. I am proud to share small glimpses of the things that mean something to me, and that people continue to open their homes to my art still amazes me.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? Earning a master of fine arts from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Becoming an art instructor at Northland Pioneer College of Holbrook, AZ. Salina Bookshelf was kind enough to approach me for a children’s book illustration, which was a dream come true. The thought of the book leaving wonderful impressions on the minds of children is priceless!
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? Landing a wonderful teaching position. Northland Pioneer College has eight locations throughout northern Arizona, and they provide great opportunities for the students. I am very fortunate to be a part of their academic family. My students work hard, and they continue to amaze me. I am grateful to play a small part in their future successes. Being an art educator has brought a whole new meaning to me as a person. I enjoy every step.
What are your goals for the future? To successfully complete a solo exhibition for the Smoki Museum in Prescott, AZ, which is scheduled for July through December. To find a well-respected gallery to show my work, and to write and illustrate my own children’s book.
What galleries represent your work? www.petersonyazzie.com.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? My work has gradually become tighter since 2005, though I do miss the looseness of my earlier works. The subject matter is largely the same, with figurative paintings and landscapes being the main focus, as well as the more recent addition of cityscapes.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? The most significant would be the Oklahoma Arts Council’s acquisition of two of my pieces for the state’s art collection in 2007.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? The period from 2005 to 2007 was big. Being included in “21 Under 31” in my final semester of graduate school at the University of Oklahoma was a huge confidence boost. The following year I was in a local magazine’s “40 under 40” story, and being included in the state of Oklahoma’s art collection came the year after that. That string of accomplishments gave me the push that I needed to keep going with a sincere belief that I could make it if I worked hard enough.
What are your goals for the future? I would like to find gallery representation outside of Oklahoma. In the studio, I’d like to loosen up my work. My landscapes are generally freer, but I have a tendency to go very tight on cityscapes and figurative pieces. I don’t think I’ve painted a cityscape or figurative piece with a loose approach since graduate school, and it would be fun to revisit that.
What galleries represent your work? The Howell Galley, Oklahoma City, OK.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? My work has grown in terms of skill and technique, but I continue with the same path and vision. I am now more confident that these images are right for not only me but the people I have connected with through my paintings. The works are spontaneous reactions to my feelings in the studio. The [inner] dialog has created a narrative that obliterates my past while embracing the present and also defining a future to love. It’s pretty amazing.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? I have participated in some amazing galleries. I was awarded a grant to build a beautiful studio. I won the Blanche Ames Award of Excellence. I participate annually in The Mystery Build challenge and placed this year for the first time. I have shown in amazing places like Laguna Beach, Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as well as abroad, but ultimately, the best thing is that I still make art every day.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? I used to believe in, and look forward to, that one turning point that would make everything okay, safe, and work. But it really comes down to working hard, persevering through slow times, lonely times, and making art every day. The turning point is in realizing that nothing else matters more than making art and living the life of an artist, no matter what the struggle is.
How has your artwork changed since you were featured in 21 Under 31? My primary medium, which is carved, painted, and fired cast acrylic, is something that I have always been proud of conceiving, but like most artists, I am driven to continually refine and reinvent my work. Some of my newer works are much more detailed and realistic, while in others I have been focusing on the connection between people and place through the incorporation of human elements, such as torn bits of love letters, print, and fabrics cast into resin. Also, I am in the process of finishing my first complete body of cast acrylic sculptures.
What have been your greatest accomplishments since then? I have helped raise money for numerous causes, and I have recently become a mentor in the College Access Mentor Program through Platte Forum, an arts-based youth development organization.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career? Finding some incredible people to represent me—who have encouraged growth and experimentation in my work, while helping to build my career as an artist—has been a true blessing and an invaluable learning experience.
What are your goals for the future? I would like to make sculpture a larger part of what I do, to continue to work with the community to help strengthen arts and education, and to never forget why I do what I do.
Featured in the May 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art May 2014 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
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