On a cold and windy spring day I walked in on Eli Walters' studio to find about 15 new paintings stacked against the studio walls and across paint-splattered concrete floors - an …
On a cold and windy spring day I walked in on Eli Walters' studio to find about 15 new paintings stacked against the studio walls and across paint-splattered concrete floors - an artist studio cum mechanical room where he mixes gallons of his own pigments and works on an occasional motorcycle to refresh his spirit and bank account.
This is an emerging artist of Taos who, according to gallery owner and jeweler Moriah Stanton, has sold every one of his pieces at her MoMo Taos gallery - a remarkable feat as Stanton has a 10-month-old who gets priority, then her jewelry-making and, finally, the website.
An exhibition of new works by Walters opens with a reception Friday (May 10), 5-7 p.m., at the MoMo venue located at 133 Bent Street.
"Eli was our opening artist in August of 2016," Stanton said, "and this is his fifth show. I knew him when he first moved here. His work was very rudimentary at the time, but I saw the quality in it. I think he's going to be a very important, up-and-coming artist of Taos. He's also a motorcyclist and a Talpa Farms farmer."
Walters' new work involves oils on oak panels that he builds himself, along with the oil paints he makes from pigments, using linseed and poppy seed oils - certainly not the opiate variety he said, laughing at the thought.
His palette is light, almost like a whispering minimalist, and texturized as though he is painting on canvas. "I used to paint on canvas. But I can wipe it off a panel if I don't like it. I do like the texture," he said.
"I used to be into portraits, but this past year I'm really liking still lifes. In a lot of ways they are a lot harder than faces. I have to create the movement in still life. It's a challenge and I enjoy it." Growing up in Colorado, he visited Taos as a kid with his folks. Later, he lived in Boulder, but finally "got fed up" with what he calls a kind of "Nazi yoga" culture and moved to Three Peaks, west of Taos. "It's kind of Wild West out there," he said about Tres Piedras' WUI (Wilderness Urban Interface) lifestyles.
"I never went to school for art, but I really got started into it in high school, with some great teachers." In 2013 he took some drawing classes in Boulder, and then got really into "the whole classical thing - and that got me into painting. But I was scared of painting.
"Anyway, I just bought a set of paints and started with portraits - faces and bodies."
Jeff Cochran is one of his Taos mentors. Walters asked Cochran to teach him about painting and Cochran reportedly said, "I can teach it to you all in 10 minutes, but then you have to do the rest," meaning, the painting itself will develop his unique artistic voice the more he uses it.
In the new work Walters is almost always using a desert environment where he gets this "pop - these blooms." He explained, "There's this simplicity - I like the lighter palette."
But there's a whole lot of painting going on to get this "simplicity," he admitted, with a knowing shake of his head.
"These oil paintings depict simple scenarios," he said in the show's artist statement. "The scenes are a vehicle to explore a process, from the creation of the paint to the application with brush and knife. The subject matter of this work is taken from my personal domestic environment. The desert landscape, the stark backdrop to my life, influences my sense of harmony, my sense of calm. That harmony, that calm, is the world that I desire and struggle to create through the limitations of oil pigment and wood."
His teachers he said are old books of technique, galleries and museums. The paint he makes by hand from raw pigment was originally "a venture that came from frugality," but has now "become a passion for the chemistry. "
Besides art, his Taos life includes cooking, farming and automobiles. "A lot of inspiration comes from my fascination with the veritable Taos landscape. I try to be in it as much as possible."
MoMo Taos focuses on emerging artists and owner-artist Stanton said she feels her gallery is part of a new wave of entrepreneurs engaging in new styles.
Like Chokola, Manzanita Market and the Rolling Still Bros.' The Lounge, she said she likes what she's seeing, despite being herself a product of a more traditional Taos artist colony.
"It's time we give attention to our young artists who are adding so much to our culture," she said. "It's important to get these youngsters supported, to maintain the integrity of the Taos artist colony."
"Eli Walters - New Works in Oil" will hang about nine weeks. For more information, call (505) 690-7871 or see momotaos.com.
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