Art

Shera Maher's colorful new dimension

Taos artist exhibits new works inspired by trek to Mexico

By Kathleen Steward
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 5/8/19

Just on the heels of returning from a three-month spirit quest in Mexico, Shera Maher has steered her art to a whole new dimension.While in Mexico, Maher participated in ceremony …

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Art

Shera Maher's colorful new dimension

Taos artist exhibits new works inspired by trek to Mexico

Posted

Just on the heels of returning from a three-month spirit quest in Mexico, Shera Maher has steered her art to a whole new dimension.

While in Mexico, Maher participated in ceremony with the Huichol people. "My dreams are different, I feel and see the energy. If I could put it into words, it wouldn't be magical." Surprised by how her art has mirrored the changes in her life, Maher returned home and painted a slew of spiritually vibrant paintings using a myriad of striking colors.

"Color speaks to people; it has a vibration," Maher said.

Works by Maher will debut at an opening reception Saturday (May 11), 5-7 p.m., at Magpie Gallery, 1405 Paseo del Pueblo Norte in El Prado.

Maher and gallery owner Georgia Gersh have chosen many of her freshly minted paintings as well as some from a few years past for the show. The difference between the two time frames is immediate. Case in point, two crow paintings; one is what Maher calls somewhat comic, because the bird's shape and color are simple and playful in comparison to the latter painted since her return from Mexico. This crow is smaller, denser - radiating with kaleidoscopic color, packed with terse brush strokes.

Maher's artistic journey has taken many twists and turns. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor's degree in fine art. Then, she zigzagged into medical illustration at the University of Texas Southwest Medical School.

"My whole entire family is in the medical field," Maher said. She dropped out; the precision was not to her liking. She went on to parlay her fine arts training and drafting skills into a 19-year career as a 3D jewelry designer. She drew her designs from every angle including cross-sections. Her job was to present a blueprint to the jewelry maker. "I have that ability," she said.

Her career trajectory might have been different if not for a layoff from her jewelry designer job. She met a Taoseño in Dallas who encouraged her to pursue her art full time, and relocating here more than 10 years ago, she has done just that. "I moved here -- it's now or never for the art thing," she said.

She dived back into the fine arts with a University of New Mexico oil painting class. Then, she landed a plum apprenticeship under one of the Taos six, the late Ray Vinella. He allowed her to use his studio for six months painting plein air impressionistic landscapes using a limited palette.

"One day he saw I used a color not in the palette. He said, 'You graduated.' " Her break-out color was pthalo blue, a bright, synthetic blue pigment used in dyes and paints because of its brilliant character. Maher continues to use pthalo blue in conjunction with other combinations of color to subdue it.

When you walk into Gersh's Magpie gallery, Maher's work lights up the intimate space with her trademark warm colors of yellow and orange - a far cry from medical illustration and later charcoal drawings. Vinella told her, "Whatever you do don't get stuck in a pigeonhole."

There are two notable paintings in Maher's upcoming show that elucidate her recent three-month Mexican sojourn, "Deer Mama" and "Corre Venadito," (Run Little Deer). Sacred to indigenous Huichol people, the deer is a symbol of compassion.

"Deer Mama" is a tender moment rendering a deer holding an infant to her breast. The mama deer is awash with a numinous aura. "I see things with more magic and wonder," Maher said. Looking at the show, "Deer Mama" is singular in its emotional and spiritual import.

"Corre Venadito" is rough, gestural and geometric. The blueish deer bounds over a peyote plant through a phantasmagorical nighttime forest. Maher said the deer came to her through a vision. "My muse is nature and all the things that happen out there."

Irony is not lost on Maher in her painting titled "Strategy." You may have to do a double take to see what is transpiring. A rabbit stands stock still while hoping the bird overhead plucks up the other rabbit in the background. Reminiscent of a Lewis Carroll illustration from "Alice and Wonderland," this one is fanciful, full of circular design aiming to jump down the proverbial rabbit hole.

After the Magpie show Maher wants to take it easy on the gallery shows. "I just want to keep working and see what happens, rest and digest everything without pressure."

For more information, call the venue at (781) 248-0166 or visit magpietaos.com.

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