Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Taken Aback by Taos

Clouds and mountain in New Mexico, 5x7 watercolour sketch
Recently I went on a wild west adventure that eventually led me to Taos, New Mexico.  Whenever I mentioned Taos people were gasping with enthusiasm, telling me it would be so marvelous and inspiring. I was amped up to be inspired and in awe of the environment. Everyone implanted the idea that New Mexico would be a magical place to go paint. Even the license plates of New Mexico boast that it's the "land of enchantment".  I s'pose I've never been one to be enchanted, it all sounds too Disney princessy for me. Still I was fully expecting spectacular views and breathtaking sunsets, but most of all inspired to paint.  I was expecting that I was going to want to paint everything I saw.  If you could only experience a smidgen of my disappointment. There were no sweeping vistas and the sunsets back home put these to shame. What did I miss? There must be something there for people to find this place so fantastic.  I didn't find the landscape inspiring but somebody must have been inspired for it to be saturated with artists so I searched the galleries to find out what and possibly where the artists were pulling their inspiration.
Hmmmmm.....seems that the majority were also uninspired by the vistas and more inspired by each other. Gallery after gallery the work all started looking the same.  Almost like one artist got the ball rolling with their individual style and everyone else followed suit. This was truly disappointing but I kept an open mind and kept searching.  I finally walked into the doors of the Taos Artist Collective and met artist J Mehaffey. She was very friendly and explained to me that the gallery is also a studio space where several artists work and sell from.  Walking around I found my favourite of the group and it just happened to be J Mehaffey's work. I don't know if I was drawn to it because it was something different from all of the other galleries, but I was impressed. Out of all of the work I had seen, up to that point, hers was the most honest.  She wasn't trying to sell the "Taos experience", or painting something simply because it sells. Some artists paint things simply because they think it will sell or they see that someone else is successful in selling a certain subject matter. That kind of work never impresses me, but that's just me. You can check out J Mehaffey's work on her site here http://www.jmehaffey.com/
Over the next few days I'll be posting about the other artists that I found in the galleries in Taos. If you can't wait for me to share you can go here http://galleryguideoftaos.com/ and check out some of the other artists in the area. If you'd like a blow by blow of my entire trip you can read about it starting here.


  1. Boy, you weren't kidding...I went through the whole gallery guide and nothing excited me. J. Mehaffey was ok but there are a couple people at Olson Larsen doing pretty much that. Some in Cedar Rapids too. I'm no judge of abstract work but I can tell if it's a complete statement or just thrown together. She's serious for sure and it's really not fair to decide without seeing that sort of work at full scale, up close. But sheesh...it's an education in expectations.

    1. Other than the weather being ideal for plein air painting I'm still scratching my head as to the appeal of the area. The food was good too, but I don't have to go too far to get good Mexican food around here.