The dramatic Vermilion Cliffs of northern Arizona take center stage as subject matter for a new show at Maxwell Alexander Gallery this month. The presentation opens with a reception from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on August 9 and features paintings by 13 top artists from across the West, including Len Chmiel, Ed Mell, Josh Elliott, and Jeremy Lipking. Gallery owner and director Beau Alexander enthusiastically describes the show as one where collectors can expect the same caliber of work that is on display in major museum exhibitions. “The vermilion-colored cliffs are a frequently painted subject for landscape artists. Depending on the time of year, visitors can find snow on the ground or temperatures reaching well over 100 degrees. In a single day the weather can also be very dramatic, changing from sunlight to rain to hail or snow,” Alexander says. “We felt that it was time to highlight the location with an exhibit to give it the importance that it deserves.”
Texas-based artist D. LaRue Mahlke agrees that the Vermilion Cliffs are worthy of an artist’s attention and a show featuring works that capture the area’s magnificence. “No matter where you go in the Vermilion Cliffs, your eyes are rewarded with sublime beauty,” she says. “It’s an artist’s dream, a poetic vision, a place I will always come back to—captivated.” Mahlke’s painting for the show, MORNING SALUTATION, was inspired by a feeling of exhilaration as she watched the sun shine on the cliffs, creating vivid shadow patterns and captivating shifts of color as the day progressed.
Although Mark Maggiori lives in Arizona, he had never visited Vermilion Cliffs National Monument until he was invited to contribute to the show. When he went to gather reference material, he was stunned at the vastness and majesty of the place. For something different, Maggiori says, he decided to paint a nocturne even though he readily admits that the Vermilion Cliffs, for many artists, are all about colors and daylight. Maggiori, who was born in France, bestowed his moody nocturne with the title VERMIlION CLIFFS AU ClAIR DE LUNE, meaning “in the moonlight.”
Unlike Maggiori, California painter Logan Maxwell Hagege has visited the Vermilion Cliffs more times than he can count. The road that goes along the base of the cliffs, he says, is always interesting, and at each turn, a beautiful scene comes into view. On every occasion he visits, the cliffs seem like a new place to him because the weather conditions are constantly changing. “I feel like I could keep going back to this region to paint for the rest of my life and never get tired of the inspiration that I get from these cliffs,” Hagege says. “In 100 years, art historians will look at all of the paintings of the Vermilion Cliffs from this time and will think of it as a haven for artists, much like the Grand Canyon. So many interesting paintings are being done in this area, and it provides so much inspiration for artists.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff