Louisa McElwain has been a resident of New Mexico since 1985. She is an abstract painter who paints Nature, outdoors. She says, "During the process of painting large canvases outdoors, the interaction with Nature introduces insects, particles of plants and soil into the paint. To acknowledge the simultaneous levels of reality which surround me, I sometimes deliberately introduce elements into the paint like bits of broken beer bottle, stones, or charred wood. The subject of my works is paint, the motif is the image, the illusions, the beauty of landscape. I never want to forget that what I am looking at is paint on canvas."
Louisa McElwain received her BFA degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Since then she has been in numerous group exhibitions. Her work is in many private and corporate collections which include the Tucson Museum of Art, AT & T, Pepsi-Cola, Nokia and the University of Pennsylvania.
Louisa McElwain's work has also been featured in numerous publications, among them Time Magazine, Southwest Art magazine and the Denver Post.
"I paint outdoors in all sorts of conditions, open to the impulse of changing light, wind, heat, cold, insects and all forces of Nature that bring life into my paintings. A painting, for me, is the sum of innumerable commitments to an idea, made in a dance to the tempo of the evolving day. It is a kind of "captured" choreography, an entire ballet one can behold in a single gaze.
I am interested in exploring a way of describing my experience of places in Nature, without subordinating the marks and strokes of paint to the motif. Paint and the gestures that move it are made to the rhythms of Nature through Time, each with its own identity as paint, yet contributing to the meaning of the work as a whole. My chosen tool for applying paint to canvas is the knife, for two primary reasons: to curb my ability to describe objects, and to move paint with velocity, articulate delicacy, and sensuous impasto. To describe my experience, I rely on my understanding of how the interaction of color creates light, and my education in drawing to establish tonal weight and space.
My deepened relationship with a few beloved places continues to entice me to paint increasingly evanescent events of Nature, to take greater leaps into larger canvases, surrendering to the inquiry, and to paint with ever more trust and joy. The awe I feel for the magnificent and the mysterious manifestations of Creation is the compelling force in my work, and is what establishes my rapport with so many people who are deeply moved by this aspect of their lives here in the West. During the process of painting large canvases outdoors, the interaction with Nature introduces insects, particles of plants and soil into the paint. To acknowledge the simultaneous levels of reality around me, I sometimes deliberately introduce elements into the paint, like bits of broken beer bottle, bone, earth, stones, grass or charred wood. Anything stuck to the front of the canvas is part of the work.
It is my experience of “wonder” that I explore, rather than a position about visual reality, as a “realist” would. It is the question that interests me, not the answer. My commitment to artistic integrity precludes my affiliation with any association of artists. As I continue to develop my own voice, I strive to keep my work free from the influences of other schools, styles or movements. Out of my education and experience I have blended two distinct ideas, the respect for materials and gesture held by the action painters of American abstract expressionism and the expressive breadth and reverence for Nature of the romantic composer Johannes Brahms
I reject the presumption that the validity of contemporary art is commensurate with its ability to “challenge” the viewer, to provoke, repulse or offend, and question the motivation of artists who adhere to that school of thought. Rather, I strive to balance the beauty of the paint with the beauty of the motif, to create paintings that gratify, nourish and empower. I celebrate the embrace of the divine mysteries.”
1953 Nashua, New Hampshire
New Mexico, since 1985
- 1990 Santa Fe Institute of Fine Arts, NM Master Class with Wolf Kahn
- 1977 BFA, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
- 1975 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME
- 1974-1973 Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA
- 1973 Nera Simi Drawing Studio, Florence, Italy
- 1971 Hampshire College, Amherst, MA
- 1971 Mount Holyoke College, sculpture with Leonard De Longa
Selected Exhibitions and Awards
- October - November 2011, The West Select, Phoenix Art Museum, AZ
- 2011 - Museum Purchase Award, Cowgirl Up!, Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenburg, AZ
- 2010 - 6th Annual Heart of the West Exhibition, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, TX
- 2010 - Best of Show, Cowgirl Up! Exhibition, Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenburg, AZ
2009 - Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX
- 2007-2008 - Booth Western Art Museum, Atlanta, GA "21st Century Regionalists: Art of the New West."
- 2007 - Arizona: A Millennium of Arizona Art, Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery, Tucson, AZ
- 2007 - Tucson Museum of Art, "Painters of the Grand Canyon"
- 2006 - New Haven Art Center, New Haven, CT "Particular Places" Honorable Mention
- 2006 - "Landscapes of New Mexico" book debut, Santa Fe, NM
- 2005 - Phippen Museum, Prescott, AZ "Homecoming: Outside the West"
- 2004 - Medicine Man Gallery, Tucson, AZ "100 Years-Painting the Grand Canyon"
- 2004 - NM Wilderness Alliance, "Wildlands Painted!"
- 2004 - Medicine Man, Santa Fe, NM "Let Me Enjoy the Earth"
- 2004 - SEGI Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ "Terra Cognita"
- 2003-4 - Palos Verdes Art Center, Palos Verdes, CA "The Wild West"
- 2003 - Medicine Man, Tucson, AZ "Along the Pilgrims' Path"
- 2002 - Medicine Man, Tucson, AZ and Santa Fe, NM "Audience with a Cloud"
- 2001 - Medicine Man, Tucson, AZ "Flights of Enchantment"
- 1997, 1995 - Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ "Women Artists of the West"
- 1995 - Ian Lewis, Scottsdale, AZ "Western Academy of Women Artists"
- 1995 - Hampshire College, Amherst, MA "25th Year, Alumni Exhibition"
- 1993 - Mongerson-Wunderlich, Chicago, IL
- 1993 - San Juan College, Farmington, NM "McElwain Paints New Mexico"
- 1988 - Southwest-East, London, England
- 1977-1975 - BFA Program Exhibitions, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
- 1975-1969 - Weston Arts and Crafts Association Shows, Weston, MA
- Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ
- St. Vincent Hospital, Santa Fe, NM
- Pepsi-Cola, CA
- AT&T, CA
- Nokia, TX
- INA Corp., PA
- Peat Marwick, CA
- Phoenix Art Museum, AZ
- NATO Headquarters, Brussels
- University of Texas Law School, Austin, TX
- Philadelphia Zoological Society
- American Embassies: Sanaa, Bogota, Singapore, Bahrain
- University of Pennsylvania, PA
- Coors Brewing Co., CO
Selected Publications and Credits
- The Artist's Magazine, March 2010 "Serving the Paint" by Ruth K. Meyer
- Western Art Collector, March 2008 and October 2008 feature articles
- Focus Santa Fe, May, 2005 "Exploring the Mysteries of Sensation in the Landscape" Wolfgang Mabry
- The Santa Lucia Preserve $10,000 Purchase Prize, May 2004, Carmel, CA
- Rio Grande Sun, Oct 2002 "Cuarteles Painter Likes to Shovel it on" Joe Czarek
- Southwest Art, Feb, 2002,"New Mexico Regionalists" Gussie Fauntleroy
- Art Talk, Feb. 2002 featured artist
- New American Paintings, winner, Oct 2000
- Southwest Art, cover February 2000 "A Life in Full" Gussie Fauntleroy
- Focus Santa Fe, 1997 "Dancing to the Tempo of the Evolving Day" Charlotte Berney
- Southwest Art, 1993 "Satisfying Surfaces" Sally Eauclaire
- The New Mexican, 1993 "Exploring the Wild Places, Palette Knife in Hand" Gussue Fauntleroy
- Southwest Profile, 1992 cover "Sensuous and Delicious Color" John Villani
- Santa Fean Magazine, 1992 "Palette Knife Wizardry" Ralph Luce
- The New Mexican, 1991 "McElwain's Paintings Resonate w. Nature's Unadorned Beauty"
- The New Mexican, 1991 "The Art of Collecting" Robert Graybill
- The New Mexican, 1991 "In Search of a Particular Moment in Time" Russ Whiting
- The Denver Post, 1990 "Critic's Choice" Steve Rosen
- Southwest Profile, 1989 cover "Beautiful and Telling Marks" Sally Eauclaire
- TIME Magazine, January 1986 "Breaking Out of the Box" Kurt Anderson
- Architectural Record, 1985 "Learning From Mother Nature" Deborah Dietch
Upcoming Film produced by PBS based on the book "Landscapes of New Mexico: Paintings of the Land of Enchantment" by Suzan Campbell and Suzanne Deats
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