The Sandia Mountains beckon to every artist, especially when they paint outdoors in the dappled light and shade of its ever-changing shoulders.
Members of the Plein Air Landscapers have captured those views in “Chasing the Light on the Sandias” at Placitas’ Wild Hearts Gallery through Sept. 3. The 10 artists hail from Placitas, painting together on a weekly basis and supporting each other as they interpret the local landscape in oil, acrylic, pastels and watercolor. Each demonstrates a signature style, be it expressionist daubs of thick color, Impressionist feathering or geometric abstraction.
Known for her architectural paintings of porches, Colleen Gregoire recently returned to landscape painting when she joined the group. Gregoire created “North Face” from the Placitas Community Library parking lot.
“It’s the north face of the mountains,” she said. “It was a late February day. There were at least eight of us. My goal was the sun on that rosy hill and the snowcapped mountains in the background.
“This is different from my front porch paintings,” she added. “With landscapes, you can go much looser.”
The artists spend from two to three hours working, then stop and critique one another, Gregoire said.
“You get a pretty good start,” she added. “If you do it enough, you learn some techniques that really help.”
Lisa Avila painted “Gold Medal Day,” cajoling the viewer through bold acrylic color and thick brushstrokes atop abstract hills.
“Color has always made her happy and gives her energy,” Gregoire said.
Connie Falk painted “Honey Mountains 2,” capturing the rugged ochre rocks near Placitas.
“It is a beautiful place that’s tucked into the foothills,” Gregoire said. “It’s one of the few places that has this color of sandstone.”
A former faculty member of New Mexico State University, Falk began taking art classes and continued them until she retired. She enjoys painting in the outdoors, carefully observing the effects of the changing seasons on light, color and form.
A retired art teacher from Manzano High School, Ann Schultz captured the Placitas Open Space in quick brushstrokes of color and form.
Alice Webb’s “Placitas Path” takes an opposite approach through bold geometric shapes and strong bursts of saturated color. She has painted the Southwest for more than 40 years. The 2024 New Mexico Magazine calendar will feature nine images of her work.
The painters decided to focus on the Sandias because they pose challenges defining and chasing the light that makes them so chameleonic.
“It’s a common frame of reference no matter where you paint in Albuquerque and Placitas,” Gregoire said. “You can be down in the bosque enjoying an acequia, but there are the mountains in the background.”