New Mexico Watercolors and Lithographs: Perry Obee
New Mexico Watercolors and Lithographs
Feb. 7 - March. 19, 2022
Artist talk video posted on Feb. 14
The watercolors in this exhibition were made during a 2-month trip through the desert of New Mexico in the summer of 2021. My wife and I set out to explore the desert terrain which had captivated us since we had moved to Albuquerque in 2018. This was our first time taking our pickup truck into the vast wilderness of the high Chihuahuan desert. I am not sure what we expected to find, but what we did find was an incredibly rich ecosystem that exists on a scale that was foreign to us. It’s hard to describe the immensity of the environment, only that the human scale feels insignificant. It’s hard not to ponder life, humanity, and the divine. The experience is sublime and profound. The strange thing is that there is not a feeling of separateness, instead there is a feeling of connection. Connection to this environment, and connection to the spiritual. Surprising is the amount of color and life that exists in the desert. I expected the desert to be lifeless and bland. It turned out to be the most varied and colorful terrain I have ever experienced.
The experience of this haunting desert landscape, now part of the southwestern United States, is one that artists, writers, spiritual seekers, pioneers, prospectors, ranchers, and of course native peoples have grappled with in their own way for millennia. I was just another in a long line of insignificant travelers attempting to take it all in. The only way I could conceive to honor this experience was through direct observation and quick watercolor sketches. Through rapid, spontaneous mark-making, and direct application of color, I could begin to approximate the entirety of my experience. Like a jazz musician who is lost in the improvisation, I let myself go, turned off the inner voice, and allowed the experience to flow through. To capture the freshness of the environment I worked quickly. By propelling through sheets of paper in a furry of quick action, I made hundreds of paintings to capture the few fleeting moments that are shown in this exhibition.
Once back home in the printmaking studio, I used these watercolors as inspirations for lithographs. Through lithography I isolate the abstract forms in these images and create something new. They are not recreations of the watercolors, but abstractions of the memory put into the graphic media of print. I am exploring layering, mark-making, texture, and the properties of ink on paper. They are iterations of a memory that become digital representations of the analog recording. An infinitely fascinating process of deconstruction and reconstruction.
Perry Obee was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He works across multiple media including painting, drawing, and printmaking. In addition to making his own work, Perry is also a Tamarind Master Printer who collaborates with other artists to produce original works in printmaking. Perry is currently a Visiting Lecturer in Printmaking at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His work addresses a struggle between perception and experience, awkwardness and beauty, approximation and precision, while playing with our ability to decipher graphic form and space. Obee is inspired by the liberated use of color and abstract visual language honed by Modern and Post-Modern artists, such as Matisse, Bonnard, and later, Diebenkorn. Additionally, he is influenced by the graphic quality and economic approach to image making found in Japanese and Chinese Landscape Painting.