Opening | Jared Weiss: He’s Either Dead Or It Was His Birthday

Jared Weiss has forgotten much of his subject matter. Or rather, the scenes that he paints are often buried somewhere deep in his unconscious. Reviving suppressed memories can be a dangerous game, but the Santa Fe artist has some heavy hitters on his side: Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek. Weiss draws inspiration from the famous line of psychoanalysts in his new solo exhibition at form & concept, He’s Either Dead or It Was His Birthday. Opening Friday, June 30, the show conjures a strange sense of déjà vu. Weiss’s figurative images—which resemble warped photographs from a massive theater production—are sure to lodge in the back of your mind.

RSVP on Facebook.
Learn more on the exhibition page.

ArtBeat Santa Fe: Jared Weiss & Rebecca Rutstein

This weekend, form & concept debuts two new painting exhibitions, Rebecca Rutstein: Fault Lines and Jared Weiss: He’s Either Dead Or It Was His Birthday. Weiss is a Santa Fe artist who draws from Freudian theory and his own memory to create compositions infused with a sense of déjà vu. Rutstein, who lives in Philadelphia, explores geometric abstraction with a vision inspired by scientific data.

Kathryn Davis of ArtBeat Santa Fe will interview both artists on Facebook Live on Thursday, June 29. Tune in at 12:00 pm for her chat with Jared Weiss, and at 7:30 pm for her interview with Rebecca Rutstein. To watch, make sure to like ArtBeat Santa Fe on Facebook and visit their page at the allotted times.

Both exhibitions open on Friday, June 30 from 5-7 pm.

Like ArtBeat Santa Fe on Facebook.
Learn more about ArtBeat Santa Fe.

Preview | Jared Weiss: He’s Either Or It Was His Birthday

Jared Weiss has forgotten much of his subject matter. Or rather, the scenes that he paints are often buried somewhere deep in his unconscious. Reviving suppressed memories can be a dangerous game, but the Santa Fe artist has some heavy hitters on his side: Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek.

Weiss draws inspiration from the famous line of psychoanalysts in his new solo exhibition at form & concept, He’s Either Dead or It Was His Birthday. Opening Friday, June 30, the show conjures a strange sense of déjà vu. Weiss’s figurative images—which resemble warped photographs from a massive theater production—are sure to lodge in the back of your mind. The exhibition opens Friday, June 30, 5-7 pm and runs through August 12, 2017. Read our interview with Weiss below, and make sure to RSVP for the reception.

Jared Weiss Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

You lived in Santa Fe previously, and then you left for a few years. What were you up to before returning in 2015? 

I was living in San Francisco for 2 years, and going to grad school. It’s kind of scary, just how forward-thinking the tech industry is, and how with that comes not really caring about anything old. Painting being one of those things.

Young tech people aren’t collecting paintings, they’re collecting yachts.

That’s totally true. I really felt unsupported, unfulfilled. I mean, school was great in a lot of ways. The community in San Francisco is just such a weird, alien place. I had to get the hell out.

How did graduate school affect your art?

It was a great experience. It was an awful experience. The biggest thing that I came away with was that I wasn’t making the work that I’d wanted to make for a very long time. I just didn’t know how. They just squeeze you and put you in corners all the time, and you have to make fight-or-flight decisions.

Really, I was afraid for the longest time. I didn’t think that my life would be interesting. Before, I was painting from photographs of people I never knew, and would never know. I found that very interesting because it’s something you can never get to, so you’re projecting.

I just slowly came to the realization that, in fact, I can paint my life. It will be interesting.

Jared Weiss Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

How did you feel coming back? Do you think it’s changed here?

Definitely. There are a lot more young people here. There’s a lot more art events happening. 

Tell us about where you grew up. 

I’m from the Midwest. I’m also kinda done with the Midwest. Terrified of the Midwest.

And yet you return to it quite often in your work.

Yeah, it’s kind of a study on the terrifying nature of it. Very subtle.

Are you still figuring out what’s going to be in the show?

I have a pretty definite idea. The work has gotten very indebted to psychoanalysis, particularly the work of Freud, Lacan, and Žižek.

The key thread through all of it is this idea of a screen memory, which appears in an old Freudian essay. He talks about any kind of experience that threatens to overwhelm the psyche, particularly trauma or a new experience that’s too overwhelming to integrate. You can repress that as a defense mechanism, but it’s still there, buried somewhere in your psyche. In order to integrate it, you collage other memories on top of it that are similar.

Jared Weiss Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

A real memory is replaced by something brighter and shinier. 

Yes, you have this kind of veneer on top that’s a fiction. It’s not a true experience, but it becomes more real somehow. In my work, the surface of the painting becomes this screen.

Are you using your own memories as subject matter?

Yes. For example, I grew up on this lumber yard, and I go back to this space. I’m using it as kind of a stage where I can cast people I know now as characters.

I like this idea of people seeing a painting and feeling like they’ve seen it before, but they really haven’t.

What inspires the titles of your paintings? 

Mainly, I pick titles to confuse the experience. They’re like red herrings in a way. They point away from this thing, in a way that makes it palatable and safe. It gives things a semblance of friendliness.

Jared Weiss Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

The people in your paintings often look familiar, but their features are just fuzzy enough that they also seem like strangers.  

That’s definitely intended. I want it to be obstructed to the point where you feel like there’s a similarity. There’s an entry point through yourself where you can project the people you know onto the figures. The Anywhere, America quality of the space and the potential knowability of the people is very intentional.

How do you choose your palette? 

In Freud’s essay about screen memories, he talks about this memory he has. All he can remember is these incredibly yellow sunflowers. He tries to dig into all these associations with people that he knew and decisions that he made in his life, which are hidden underneath the memory of the sunflower.

The yellow of a sunflower, this hallucinatory, really amped-up yellow, is kind of what inspired the palette. You exaggerate in order to be able to remember things. 

Are your paintings entirely rooted in the past?

As much as I speak about memory, the work is very much about reconstructing my life now. Pointing to this place that I’m from, but making it so it’s never in the past. It’s always this “now” moment. Painting has so many similarities with life. Good painting is always alive.

Jared Weiss Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

Join us for the opening reception of Jared Weiss: He’s Either Dead Or It Was His Birthday on Friday, June 30, 5-7 pm. The show opens concurrently with another painting exhibition, Rebecca Rutstein: Fault Lines. Click here to read our blog preview of Rutstein’s show.

Artwork:

1. Jared Weiss, I Was Saying It Outright,  oil on canvas, 74 x 54 in.
2. Jared Weiss, Bad Maps, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 in.
3. Jared Weiss, In That Case, I Had a Wonderful Time, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 in.
4. Jared Weiss, This Is Only a Little of It, oil on canvas, 18 x 14 in.
5. Jared Weiss, Islands Are Not Forever, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 in.

Preview | Rebecca Rutstein: Fault Lines

When your painting studio is set adrift on the open sea, things can get a little messy. Philadelphia-based painter Rebecca Rutstein spent her last three artist residencies in close quarters with oceanographic cartographers, examining never-before-seen images of the ocean floor and translating what she learned into undulating, semi-abstract paintings. She grew accustomed to the constant motion of the boat and its unpredictable effect on her brushstrokes.

In Fault Lines, her first-ever solo exhibition in New Mexico, Rutstein returns to dry land. Using the sunburnt palette of the high desert, the artist turns her attention to seismic events that occur deep in the Earth’s crust—and employs some tricks she learned at sea to imbue her compositions with dynamic motion. Fault Lines opens at form & concept on Friday, June 30, 5-7 pm, and runs through August 12, 2017. Read our interview with Rutstein below, and make sure to RSVP for the opening on Facebook.

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Brighten the Corners, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

Describe your new body of work, and tell us about its beginnings. 

So, this body of work is coming full circle from the artist residencies that I’ve just completed at sea. I’m returning to some of the themes in my work that I’ve been exploring over the last several years. The paintings explore mapping and geology in less specific ways than while I was at sea, when I had live data coming in. These are getting back to more abstract themes that I’ve been exploring.

Which were the first paintings in the series? 

I started off working on a lot of 36-inch square paintings where I’ve been exploring a lot of these ideas, and now I’m moving into 60-by-90 inch paintings as well. In some of the paintings I’m exploring wire frame mapping, which features these tetrahedral forms.

I’m really interested in this idea of fractal geometry. It’s been a big theme in my work, this idea that patterns repeat themselves in infinite scales. When you’re looking at one of the paintings, you’re not sure if you’re looking at something through the lens of a microscope or a satellite image of, say, the planet’s surface. 

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Contagious, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

How did you choose the palette for these works?

Color has always been the intuitive part of my process. I’ve always thought in color. Back in grad school, that was always the strength of my paintings. The color I choose is very emotionally driven and very intuitive. In this particular body of work I’m actually thinking about some of the colors that appear in the landscape of New Mexico. Some of the oranges and pinks. I’m really not referencing New Mexican geology specifically, though.

It’s interesting, because you’re moving from residencies at sea to the high desert. Although, New Mexico is a prehistoric ocean floor, so maybe they’re not as separate as we think. 

That brings me back to my initial interest in geology, which was back when I was an undergraduate at Cornell. The finger lakes region of Upstate New York, where Cornell is located, is absolutely stunning. It’s this dramatic display of waterfalls and gorges, where streams have been eroding monumental layers of shale to reach these finger lakes. The finger lakes are long, deep lakes that were gouged out by glaciers about 10,000 years ago. They offer this incredible view of geology at work.

At Cornell, I took a geology class for non-science majors. It was informally called Rocks for Jocks, and each class we’d go to a state park nearby to learn about the geology firsthand. You just reminded me when you were talking about New Mexico being underneath a sea, because this whole area had also been covered by an inland sea about 400 million years ago. We would go and look at these rocks, and we could see ripples and shell fossils. I would stand up on these cliffs, and imagine the whole area being submerged by the sea. 

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Fantasy Obscured, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

Is that when geologic concepts entered into your artwork? 

Not quite. My undergraduate work was mostly figurative, and my early work in grad school at University of Pennsylvania was an exploration of abstract expressionism. I made large-scale paintings in oil, which were very much about expressive mark-making. Occasionally, I would anchor the paintings with some linear, mystical elements, but everything was done very expressively.

Around the year 2000, I felt like the paintings needed more structure. At the same time, I was going through some difficult, personal relationship stuff. That’s when I started leafing through my old geology textbooks. All of a sudden, these plate tectonic diagrams started to really resonate with me.

How so? 

They spoke to me as a metaphor for my own interpersonal relationships. Every time I would look at these plates colliding and separating, I thought about the shifts and friction and tension and collision and separation and upheaval I was experiencing in my own life. I started to recognize these forces under the surface of my own daily life.

I decided on a whim to start putting these diagrams into my paintings, to see what would happen.

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Fault Lines, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 90 in.

And what happened? 

All of a sudden, my paintings had meaning for me beyond self-expressive mark-making. It became very clear to me that the paintings had much more meaning when I started to explore this metaphor of tectonic forces. From there, I wanted to pursue opportunities to learn about geology in different regions.

I started applying for residencies in places that I thought would be interesting from a geological perspective. My first residency was in the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Canada. I wanted to learn how the Canadian Rockies formed, so I met with people in the field and did observations, and then incorporated the narrative into a whole body of work.

How did you end up on your Hawaiian residency? 

Well, I went back to Canada the following summer. A couple of years later, I wanted to explore another area. I ended up going to Hawaii to study the Kilauea volcano, which is one of the most fascinating active volcanoes on the planet. I took helicopter rides over the volcanic activity, and caved through lava tubes. I really allowed myself to experience the geography firsthand. Then I told a story through my paintings.

The show I did after my Hawaii trip was called Ebb and Flow, which could be read in multiple ways—kind of like the diagrams from my geology textbooks. The show from the Canadian Rockies series was called Love and Subduction. Later, after my Iceland residency, I did a show called Deep Rift. The stories I told about geology were always interwoven with my own personal psychology.

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Feeling Isolated, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

When you were in Hawaii, did you realize you wanted to explore the ocean? 

That was one of the first moments when I became really curious about what was underneath the surface of the ocean. It started off with ocean floor maps that I discovered during the residency. Then, my mom sent me an article in the mail that happened to be Marie Tharpe’s obituary.

Marie Tharp was this amazing woman. She was and under-recognized oceanographer who spent decades through the 1940’s, 50s, and 60s working at Columbia recording single echo soundings that were taken from ships and plotting them into these two dimensional profiles to figure out what the depths of the ocean were, and what the ocean floor looked like.

She would take these 2D profiles that were maybe a hundred miles apart and then interpolate all the spaces in between and create three-dimensional drawings of the ocean floor, replete with canyons and mountains and volcanoes. The drawings were incredibly detailed. 

Did Marie Tharp find her way into your work?

I wanted to create an homage to her. I discovered that all of Marie Tharp’s maps and drawings had been donated to the Library of Congress in DC. I went down there and pored through these drawings and maps, and was blown away. When I got the opportunity to create a 60-foot installation at the Philadelphia Airport, I did a multi-panel installation for her.

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Running Place, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

Speaking of deep sea exploration, when did your first residency at sea come about? 

Even before I went to sea, I had been working on these underwater themes for several years. I moved away from that for a while after my Iceland residency, and then I had the opportunity to go to sea. It was a voyage from the Galapagos Islands to California. The scientists were going to mapping out never-before-seen ocean floor topography in high resolution.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime, but it also created a host of challenges. It was definitely uncharted territory for me, no pun intended. I was used to working on a big scale in my studio, and I had to figure out the logistics of paintings on a ship. I had to get all my supplies there and anticipate what I would need in terms of paint and canvas.

So you were already in a pretty confined space, and then there was the motion of the ocean. 

Yes, painting on a moving vessel was its own challenge. The ship was moving particularly hard because we were trailing a hurricane in the Pacific. There was a lot of rocking going on, and at first I was trying to control what I was doing. Eventually, I decided to just go with the flow of the ship.

I started pouring paint onto the canvas, and allowing the rocking movements of the ship to disperse the paint. Then I’d superimpose these sonar maps that we were collecting on top of these very process-oriented fields of color.

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Slanted & Enchanted, acrylic on canvas, 90 x 60 in.

Was it liberating to unleash like that? In other ways, your works are so precise. 

That’s really what I’m after, that polarity. It’s this idea that I’m not controlling the way the paint is going to arrive on the canvas. Even in these really organic pours, there’s this idea of fractal geometry. I love that there’s a process-oriented element, and then I’m going back in to work with more intentional and purposeful graphic forms. They coexist on the same canvas.

Does that idea of the connection to your emotional landscape still resonate in your current work, or has it shifted away as you’ve explored all these different things? 

It is still there. It happens sometimes in the way I title my work. Personally, my life feels a little more stable now. I think it’s there, but it’s more buried than it used to be.

In my paintings, I’m exploring formal abstract ideas, so it also harkens back to the abstract expressive painting that I was doing 20 years ago.

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Still Dreaming, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

In your experience working with scientists and studying science, what are you bringing to the table as an artist that’s unique or important? 

Here’s a beautiful analogy from Robert Ballard, who is very well-known in the ocean exploration world. His ship, the Nautilus, is the one that I sailed on in the Galapagos. We were interviewed for NPR, and he was talking about what the artist brings to the table. He said that ocean exploration is like being on the edge of the Grand Canyon in the dark, and the artist turns the light on.

So, the artist visualizes and translates boring data into something potentially beautiful or impactful that a larger audience can appreciate. An artist is going to broaden the awareness of these important issues. That idea of communicating these ideas to a larger public is really critical, and why scientists are looking t work with artists. There’s a big interest in this cross-disciplinary exploration.

Rebecca Rutstein: Fault Lines opens on Friday, June 30, 5-7 pm. Click here to learn more about the show, and make sure to RSVP on FacebookFault Lines opens concurrently with another painting exhibition, Jared Weiss: He’s Either Dead Or It Was His Birthday. Click here to read our blog preview of Weiss’s show.

Summer Artist Talk: Heather Bradley

Ceramicist Heather Bradley continues form & concept’s Summer Artist Talks series. She will speak about her artwork on Saturday, June 10, 2-3 pm. The talk takes place during form & concept’s One-Year Anniversary Exhibition, featuring new artwork from all of the gallery’s represented artists.

RSVP on Facebook.

Biography

Heather Bradley’s ceramic forms reflect the repetition in the natural world, endlessly exploring variations on a theme. “I work in clay because I love to work with my hands. I love the feeling of the earth between my fingers and everything about the way the clay behaves. The potter’s wheel has proven to be the perfect tool for me because I want to make work with a sense of elegance, symmetry, and simple beauty. I work in multiples and I thrive in repetition. The wheel lends itself to this. With each experience on the wheel, my hands remember and learn.” Born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Heather studied art at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida. She received a B.F.A. in Painting from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces in 2000, and in 2001 lived and worked in Galway, Ireland. Heather received her M.F.A. in Ceramics from N.M.S.U. in 2005. Currently she lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Click here to browse Heather Bradley’s artwork.

Summer Artist Talks Schedule

In its first year, form & concept has emphasized powerful and diverse storytelling through its exhibition schedule and programs. The gallery’s roster of represented artists has been steadily growing, making for a dynamic One-Year Anniversary Exhibition (May 26-October 22, 2017). The majority of form & concept’s represented artists will speak, along with several guest artists.

Matthew Mullins & Wesley Anderegg | 5/27/17, 2-3 pm
Heidi Brandow | 6/3/17, 2-3 pm
Heather Bradley | 6/10/17, 2-3 pm
NoiseFold | 6/17/17, 2-3 pm*
Rebecca Rutstein | 7/1/17, 2-3 pm
Elana Schwartz | 7/8/17, 2-3 pm
Debra Baxter | 7/15/17, 2-3 pm
Jared Weiss | 7/22/17, 2-3 pm*
Armond Lara | 8/20/17, 2-3 pm
Broken Boxes Artists & Curators Panel Discussion | 8/20/17, 3-4 pm*

*Guest artists. All other participants are form & concept represented artists.

Summer Artist Talk: Heidi Brandow

Multi-disciplinary artist Heidi Brandow continues form & concept’s Summer Artist Talks series. She will speak about her artwork on Saturday, June 3, 2-3 pm. The talk takes place during form & concept’s One-Year Anniversary Exhibition, featuring new artwork from all of the gallery’s represented artists.

RSVP on Facebook.

Biography

“Heidi K. Brandow likes to explore the juxtaposition of things that are familiar and safe with those that might make us feel less comfortable, reflecting the mix of the positive and negative that appears in everyone’s life.” says the Albuquerque Journal North. Brandow is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work is commonly filled with whimsical characters and monsters that are often combined with words of poetry, stories, and personal reflections. Hailing from a long line of Native Hawaiian singers, musicians and performers on her mother’s side and Diné storytellers and medicine people on her father’s side, she finds that her pursuit of an artistic career came natural. Drawing her inspiration from everyday life, Brandow’s work concerns discovering, defining, and redefining personal identity by questioning authority and deconstructing mainstream assumptions of Native Americans. Brandow’s work engages personal, cultural, and historical experiences while incorporating perspectives of critical theory.

Brandow is a part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chatanooga, Tennessee, and the Luciano Benetton Collection in Italy. She is a featured artist in the School of Advanced Research (SAR) publication “Art in Our Lives: Native Artist Women in Dialogue. Heidi K. Brandow is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA and has studied design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Istanbul Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey.

Browse Heidi’s artwork.

Summer Artist Talks Schedule

In its first year, form & concept has emphasized powerful and diverse storytelling through its exhibition schedule and programs. The gallery’s roster of represented artists has been steadily growing, making for a dynamic One-Year Anniversary Exhibition (May 26-October 22, 2017). The majority of form & concept’s represented artists will speak, along with several guest artists.

Matthew Mullins & Wesley Anderegg | 5/27/17, 2-3 pm
Heidi Brandow | 6/3/17, 2-3 pm
Heather Bradley | 6/10/17, 2-3 pm
NoiseFold | 6/17/17, 2-3 pm*
Rebecca Rutstein | 7/1/17, 2-3 pm
Elana Schwartz | 7/8/17, 2-3 pm
Debra Baxter | 7/15/17, 2-3 pm
Jared Weiss | 7/22/17, 2-3 pm*
Armond Lara | 8/20/17, 2-3 pm
Broken Boxes Artists & Curators Panel Discussion | 8/20/17, 3-4 pm*

*Guest artists. All other participants are form & concept represented artists.

Studio Visit: Matthew Mullins

Matthew Mullins is one of form & concept’s newly represented artists. His artwork will appear in our 4 New Artists opening reception on Friday, October 28 from 5-8 pm, along with the creations of Heather Bradley, Heidi Brandow and Wesley Anderegg. 

“When we moved here, I was so excited that I’d be working in a greenhouse,” says Matthew Mullins. “There’s so much light, and also the possibility of actually growing some things in here.” He’s tending to the small jungle that occupies one corner of his home studio, just off Canyon Road in Santa Fe. Surrounding the real greenery, there’s a series of mixed media paintings that echo the natural patterns of the plants. Matt starts by painting a landscape or natural detail in watercolor, and then overlays a human-made pattern—like a quilt or tile design—atop the natural scene using acrylic ink. Then he works back and forth, sharpening details in the scene or strengthening the pattern in a compositional push-and-pull. “I’m really focusing on the interconnection between humans and nature,” Matt explains. “The patterns, they’re kind of like our filters of how we’re interacting with nature. It’s a metaphor for the connections of humanity and nature.”

Matthew moved to Santa Fe in 2011 from Berkeley, California. He spent most of his childhood in the Bay Area, and attended Sonoma State University and the University of California, Berkeley. “When I was at UC Berkeley getting my MFA, I was around all these archives and labs and machinery,” he says. His fascination for hidden corners of the school’s research libraries inspired a series of photorealistic watercolors of stacked books, dusty typewriters and tangled scientific equipment. Now, he paints fragmented nature scenes and mandalas of the cosmos. In this Q & A, we spoke with Matthew about his transition to New Mexico, how the landscape has transformed his artwork, and his current inspiration.

Matthew Mullins- Artist Studio Visit- Santa Fe New Mexico- form and concept

When did you first start working with watercolors? 

My first painting class was a watercolor class at a community college in the Bay Area. I loved it, and really connected with it right away. It was during a period where I wasn’t necessarily planning on being an artist. I was going to school to be a chiropractor, and taking a lot of science classes. The art class was really where my heart was. I took beginner’s and advanced watercolor classes, but when I went to Sonoma State I started painting with oil and acrylic. I didn’t really touch watercolor again until I got to grad school.

I started using watercolor again because […] I wanted to force myself into a really fluid medium, and practice being looser and painting the whole composition at once through layers rather than piece by piece. Once I started getting into that, it felt like that was the way to paint. I was able to get into these painting flows much better, rather than a really punctuated process of doing these little sections. With the watercolor I can just have my palette there, and the paint doesn’t really dry out the way that acrylic does. I can just be there for hours, painting and getting into this really great flow, which is why I paint.

Tell us about your progression from photorealistic watercolors to natural scenes with bold, abstract patterns. 

That transition in style had a lot to do with what I was doing in my life, and where I was. The archives and more photorealist work, I was doing when I was in grad school in Berkeley. I think that kind of environment lead me to these places that are repositories for all of this information. It was all of these artifacts that kind of embody peoples’ work and knowledge, and the human body of knowledge growing. 

Then when I moved to New Mexico, I was going outside all of the time, spending a lot of time in nature. I’ve always had an interest in science, and when you look at plants or stars, there’s these patterns and systems, and there’s this organization at every level—macro to micro. There’s some sort of organization and pattern. There’s also chaos, but there’s some sort of predictability or way that these things are being organized.

Matthew Mullins- Chicoma Artwork- Watercolor and Acrylic Ink- Form and Concept
Matthew Mullins, Chicoma, acrylic ink and watercolor on paper.

How did moving to New Mexico change the way you look at the world? 

It was a big shock, with the amount of space. I think one of the bigger surprises was how far you could see, and how crisp everything is when you see it far away. In Berkeley when you’re looking over the water, which is pretty much the only place where you could have a far vista, everything gets really diffuse pretty quickly from all the fog in the atmosphere. All the colors get muted and turn gray. Here it’s crisp 40 miles away, a real vista. My palette got much more vivid after moving here. 

Did you start painting the landscape right away? 

At first, I was resistant to change. Being aware of the art history in Santa Fe and predominant styles around here, I didn’t want to paint landscapes. I wanted to avoid all of my preconceived notions of what I thought art in Santa Fe was. So I was pretty stubborn at first, like, “I’m going to paint these archives and these machines. This is what I do. I’m not going to really be influenced by what’s around me.” Then I couldn’t help being influenced by what’s around me.

My initial watercolor studies [of the New Mexico landscape] were monochromatic. I was painting monochromatically because I was really teaching myself how to paint the landscape. I had never really painted landscapes that seriously before. I was painting a lot of machinery and human-made things before. With all of the edges and the way the light works, it’s much harder to paint the landscape. The monochrome made it easier because I was only working with value and form rather than color relationships as well. Once I dialed that in a little bit better, then I started incorporating color. I love color and I want to use a lot of it, so the monochromatic stuff was just practice.

Matthew Mullins- Artist Studio Visit- Santa Fe New Mexico- form and concept

When you discuss your influences, you often reference photographers as well as painters. How does photography influence your work? 

I look at a lot of photography, and there’s a lot of photographers that I really like. Andreas Gursky is a big influence, for all of the detailed information that’s in those photos. All of my paintings start from photography, but they’re my own shots. I treat it mostly as a tool to get to the painting and to be able to record nature and bring it back into the studio. It’s the first step to kick the painting off, kind of like a sketchbook.

It usually starts with light or something that just catches my eye. Then I might get my camera out, and from the camera lens I’ll start composing. I don’t really compose in my mind that much. I just go after what catches my eye and then look a little closer.

Matthew Mullins- The Creation of Iron Artwork- form and concept
Matthew Mullins, The Creation of Iron, watercolor and blood on paper.

In your mandala series, The Creation of the Elements, you incorporate unconventional materials into the works, like a drop of blood or a bit of copper. Tell us about the conceptual reasoning behind that. 

With the blood, it was a surprise. I wasn’t planning that until the very end. I started that painting working from the outside in. I was like, ‘How is this going to resolve?’ When I was getting close to the middle, I was thinking that stars are where all of the elements are created except for hydrogen. Everything more complicated than hydrogen is created inside of a star. I was thinking that the iron, copper and the elements in my body are actually made in stars. I wanted a human connection to that.

In your works that blend human-made patterns with natural scenes, you use watercolor and acrylic ink. What are some differences between handling those two mediums? 

The acrylic ink is much riskier than the watercolor. The second it goes on, it stains and you can’t really get it off. With watercolor, you can kind of loosen it up and dab it out and lighten it. It still stains the paper a little bit, but not like acrylic ink. With the ink, every little waver of your hand is recorded. I like how it records that detail, and it makes it waterproof so when you go over it with the next layers it doesn’t smudge or soften up.

I just try to get into a flow. I don’t focus too much on making the lines perfect, I just try not to second guess myself. Once I start slowing down, I start editing too much. The paintings are really structural and I could get bogged down in all the details, but I want to not be too strict on myself and just roll with the process.

What are you working on next? 

I feel like I’m just getting started [with these series]. There’s three different avenues to go down with this work. I’m just pushing the snowball down the hill, and I feel like everything I’m doing can take on a lot more. The deadline of this show, and the excitement of getting my work out of the studio has lit a fire under me. 

Meet Matthew Mullins and experience his work at the 4 New Artists opening reception. RSVP on Facebook to show your support.