Meditations on Nature: The Art of Tony Griffith

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • February 24th, 2015

Whether you’re climbing mountains in Northern New Mexico or strolling down a nature trail, we’ve all come across those serene areas that invite you to stop, rest, and enjoy the natural world around you. It could be a beautiful waterfall, a trickling stream, or just a sunny clearing that gives you that calm and peaceful feeling in a busy and hectic world.

These intimate spaces are the inspiration for California artist Tony Griffith’s abstract acrylic paintings.

Crimson Meditation by Tony Griffith at Pippin Contemporary

Crimson Meditation by Tony Griffith, 36×36″, mixed media: acrylic/resin/panel.

“There are so many distractions in our society,” says Griffith. “I hope that when looking at my work, the viewer can clear their mind and experience that inner peace for a moment.”

Griffith’s Buddha Creek series reflects a specific area along a trail in the San Jacinto Mountains above Idyllwild, California, a place Griffith called home for ten years before his move to Palm Desert. A clearing with a mountain spring flowing into small pools and waterfalls is one of Griffith’s favorite places to stop, relax, and meditate before continuing on his hike. Buddha Creek #23 is an abstract representation of this familiar resting place and the peaceful emotions associated with it. Griffith explains the symbolism in his narrative of the composition:

Buddha Creek #23 by Tony Griffith at Pippin Contemporary

Buddha Creek #23 by Tony Griffith, 36×36″, mixed media: acrylic/resin/panel.

The abstract landscape-oriented composition of the work combines the vast mountain vistas (the background), and the granite boulders and outcroppings that define the immediate intimate spaces (the foreground). The southwest-inspired colors are fueled by mood, lighting, time of day, scenic orientation, energy and peacefulness of the Zen-like experience of each visit. Space and texture co-exist on the same picture plane inviting the viewer to transcend through solid rock, a metaphor for our journey across life’s obstacles.

Griffith’s spiritual approach to his art along with his inspiration from nature gives his work an organic vibrancy, which is also in part due to the resin finish on his panels. As the resin cures, it brings out the vivid colors and uneven textures from the layers underneath, as if the viewer is looking at the piece through water. Griffith compares it to pebbles in a stream – they appear brighter and closer when underwater. The resin finish conforms to the texture underneath, and like water, often creates pits and ripples that change with the light as you move around the piece.

With a background in computer science and a career as an IT professional, Griffith started pursuing art full-time when he was 40 years old. Growing up in a family of artists exposed

Pippin Contemporary artist Tony Griffith at Buddha Creek

Tony Griffith at his “Buddha Creek” meditation spot in the San Jacinto Mountains of California.

him to a creative environment at a young age, and this artistic influence stayed with him throughout his life. As a young adult, Griffith surrounded himself with artists and art educators who gave him an informal education in art history and studio art. While you wouldn’t expect a technological background to be compatible with fine art, Griffith’s computer and coding experience proved to be a creative process he could easily transform into art, and he has enjoyed a successful second career selling his work in galleries across the southwest.

Griffith’s 2015 show at Pippin Contemporary will run from October 14th to October 27th, with an opening reception on Friday October 16th. “Passages” will be a new body of resin work that represents the spiritual awakening or epiphany required to overcome life’s challenges.

View more of Griffith’s southwest-inspired pieces on his artist page of our website.

Kevin Robb: Speaking Through Sculpture

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • February 11th, 2015

When you have a sculptor for a father, you learn to see and understand the world in a different way. When you have Kevin Robb for a father, you learn that communicating in that world is about more than words you say, words you write. Every hand gesture, smile, touch, and laugh means so much more than any spoken words ever could. You learn that the large, stainless steel sculptures that surrounded your childhood are more than just contemporary works of art; they are outlets and expressions of a life’s passion, or even a life’s saving grace.

Pippin Contemporary Sculptor Kevin Robb Monumental Work

Kevin Robb’s Monumental Stainless Steel Sculpture


Kelsey Robb discovered all of this as the daughter of metal sculptor Kevin Robb. Growing up around the studio, Kelsey loved helping her father grind metals and watch abstract designs evolve into monumental, dynamic works of art at his hand. But in January 2004, everything about her father’s artistic process changed. After creating sculptures for 20 years, Kevin Robb suffered a massive stroke in his studio – an unexpected, unfathomed occurrence for a strong and healthy 49-year-old. The doctors told his family he wouldn’t make it through the first night, that they should say their goodbyes. “They forgot to tell my dad that,” said Kelsey proudly.

Pippin Contemporary sculptor Kevin Robb with daughter Kelsey in the studio

Robb with daughter Kelsey in the studio.

Robb was on life-support for thirteen days and in rehab for seven weeks, beating the doctor’s predictions. Against the odds, Robb survived the stroke, but not without consequences. It killed 75% of his left-brain, leaving him with no ability to read, write, or speak. The stroke also left Robb with physical limitations, and he is now unable to use his right arm and leg.

“When we brought him home, my mom and I didn’t quite know what to do,” explained Kelsey. “So we did the only thing we knew to do. We brought him into the studio.”

Diane, Robb’s wife and now spokesperson and business manager, knew as soon as they walked into the studio that this would be her husband’s recovery. “When he was first home he just really wasn’t there,” she remembers. “But the moment we brought him into the studio, I saw the life come back to his eyes.”

Kevin Robb with studio assistant

Robb with studio assistant Harrison Nealy.

It was then that Kelsey and Diane made the decision to do whatever it took to allow Robb to continue communicating his passion. Diane quit her job and became his business manager, and they hired welders to aid him in the studio. Robb now communicates to his family and studio assistants through charades, directing every aspect of production, gesturing every curve and movement that he wants the metal to take. It has now been eleven years since Robb’s stroke, and his artistic career hasn’t slowed. From tabletop pieces to monumental sculpture, Robb’s dynamic body of work exists all over the country and around the world. He has public installations in 48 of the 50 United States, and his sculpture is collected internationally in Canada, Mexico, France and Australia.

“Even before the stroke, he has always said he had more ideas than he could ever do in a lifetime,” said Diane. “He creates intuitively and lets the metal tell him what to do.”

Kevin Robb 3D sketches

In the past year, Kevin has mastered Sketch Up, a computer software program that allows him to create 3D sketches for commissions and proposals.

With the twists and turns of the steel as his guide, his wife and daughter as his support, and his assistants as his hands, Robb continues to create and live his passion. In the words of his daughter, “You have to find a passion and find a way to make it work, no matter how the odds are stacked against you.”

Watch Kelsey speak in this video about her father’s experience, and view Robb’s complete portfolio of sculpture on our website.

Kevin Robb with wife Diane and daughter Kelsey

Kevin Robb with daughter Kelsey and wife Diane.



Cruising the Caribbean with Michael Ethridge

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • January 28th, 2015

Michael Monroe Ethridge’s abstract landscapes take viewers on a tropical journey to warmer climates. A salty breeze, the spray of an ocean swell, and the sound of crashing waves flow through your mind like a virtual vacation. Layers of acrylic pigment add a sculptural element to Michael’s work, with unique textures giving life to a rippling wave or a wind blown cloud. Many of the experiences captured on his canvases are inspired by Caribbean waters, where he spent time as a musical performer on cruise ships in his younger days. This month, Ethridge had the opportunity to return to the dazzling turquoise landscape that first sparked his artistic passions.

Richness of Nature by Michael Monroe Ethridge at Pippin Contemporary

Richness of Nature by Michael Monroe Ethridge

Michael cruised the Caribbean for ten days this January as the artist-in-residence on the Oceania Riviera. He taught art workshops to over capacity classes, listened to wonderful music, ate gourmet food, and enjoyed the beauty of white sand beaches. The cruise ship stopped at eight ports including the Dominican Republic, Saint Maarten and Saint Barts. His first teaching experience as well as fresh inspiration from the landscape sent Michael home refreshed and artistically motivated. Hear Michael talk about his experience as he enjoys the beauty of St. Maarten in this video.

“More than anything, getting out of my art studio caused the creative juices to flow,” said Michael. “I was reminded of all the turquoise and aqua greens from my past cruises and it reignited my passion to put them on canvas.”

Michael Ethridge teaching art workshop

Michael teaches a painting workshop on the cruise ship. Check out this video of Michael in action!

Michael exhibited his paintings on the ship in the “artist’s loft,” an area that was specially reserved for his work, as well as the hallways leading to fine dining areas. As the guests strolled to dinner in their evening attire, Michael’s canvases caught their eye as an artistic portrayal of their day on the water. In his workshops, Michael encouraged his students to look at art as if they were “stopping to smell the roses,” taking a moment to gaze into a painting and truly appreciate the beauty in front of them.

“I found leading workshops to be very rewarding,” said Michael. “It’s one thing to be able to paint, but it’s another thing to be able to teach someone to paint.”

Michael Monroe Ethridge art workshop

Full art class on the Oceania Riviera

Michael’s students also found the experience rewarding – every seat was full and people still lined the back of the room as they stood listening to his instruction. One idea that Michael shared with his students was the visual stimulation art has on the senses.

“Just like food, music and love, art makes us feel good,” explained Michael. “It stimulates us visually, and I taught that to students in my workshops.”

Michael returned home to Naples, Florida to a completed studio, a project that has been in the works for more than a year of renovations. Now in the process of organization, Michael plans to start painting in the new space very soon.

So Far Away by Michael Monroe Ethridge at Pippin Contemporary

So Far Away by Michael Ethridge. SOLD

“It’s all been very refreshing,” said Michael. “I’m looking forward to getting some of this inspiration out onto the canvas.”

The completion of the studio along with his rejuvenating experience in the Caribbean will be reflected in Michael’s next show at Pippin Contemporary. The show will focus on the current transitions in his career and how his art is affected. Mark your calendars for July 3rd to experience Michael’s newest body of work.

Greg Reiche: Refreshing Creativity as ARTsmart Honorary Artist

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • January 14th, 2015

A strong slab of sandstone, delicate glasswork, and opposing straight and curved lines of steel make up Greg Reiche’s symmetrical sculpture, “Tuntawu Offering.”

Tuntawu Offering by Greg Reiche at Pippin Contemporary

Tuntawu Offering by Greg Reiche. Available at ARTsmart Gourmet Dinner & Auction on February 21st.

“Tunatwu” is the Cherokee term for moth or butterfly, particularly one that flies in and out of fire. Reiche uses geometric forms to evoke an anthropomorphic feeling from the piece: sandstone wings, a delicate glass body, and steel antennae illustrate a “tuntawu” with a commanding presence. The piece is indicative of Reiche’s static work – perfect symmetry creates a balanced sculpture with shapes borrowed from the natural world.

The moth is also a Cherokee symbol of rejuvenation or rebirth, an idea reflected in Reiche’s current artistic endeavors. As the 2015 ARTsmart Honorary Artist, Reiche has been mentoring high school students in Jake Lovato’s Santa Fe High School welding class for the past several months. This honored title, along with the eye-opening experience of working with talented youth, is rejuvenating Reiche’s creativity.


Reiche advises a local high school student on his project.

“These kids have definitely inspired me,” says Reiche. “I want to look for other opportunities to work with kids in the future because of my experience with the project.”

Reiche lead the project with few parameters and little structure, allowing the students to feel free to create something original. The Santa Fe sculptor is guiding about 50 welding students, some working individually and some in teams, which will result in 20 to 25 pieces of original artwork to be auctioned off at ARTsmart’s Winter ARTfeast.

“We have everything from contemporary abstracts to roosters and bulls,” explained Reiche. “My ultimate goal was for the students to have a good time and produce something they’re proud of.”

The young artists will keep half of the proceeds from their work, while the other half supports ARTsmart New Mexico. This non-profit organization supplements arts education in Santa Fe schools through visual arts workshops and by donating funds for art materials and scholarships. Every year, ARTsmart selects an Honorary Artist to lead one of these workshops, giving students the opportunity to create projects under the guidance of a professional artist. The project culminates with the Winter ARTfeast event Step Up to the Plate, a gourmet dinner and auction honoring Reiche and the student artists.

Step Up to the Plate ARTsmart Santa Fe

Step Up to the Plate guests ready to bid at the live auction! Photo Credit: Genevieve Russell, Story Portrait Media

Reiche’s “Tuntawu Offering” will be up for auction at this event, along with student work created under his guidance. The decadent dinner will offer a three-course gourmet meal prepared by Adobo Catering, with appropriate wine pairings and a dessert buffet. Attendees will witness four of Santa Fe’s leading artists create art in a Quick Draw and bid on their work. An array of fine art and travel packages will also be included in the live and silent auctions. Full details on the event and tickets can be found on ARTsmart’s website.

Before the spectacular chaos of Step Up to the Plate ensues, we’re hosting a casual meet and greet with Greg Reiche at Pippin Contemporary. Chat with Reiche over croissants and coffee about his artwork and his experience inspiring young artists. This event will take place at the gallery from nine to ten am on Saturday, February 21st, preceding ARTsmart’s dinner and auction that evening.

The title of ARTsmart Honorary Artist will follow Reiche throughout his career. The visionary sculptor looks at the upcoming year as one of outward growth. He plans to expand his gallery representation out of state with his kinetic work and has plans for several public projects. Reiche will begin the summer with a showing of his most recent body of work at Pippin Contemporary this May.

Support Greg Reiche and emerging young artists – buy your ticket for Step Up to the Plate now! It will be an unforgettable evening of fantastic food and spirited bidding, all in support of ARTsmart’s creative cause.

Guilloume: Bolismo Bronze

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • December 31st, 2014

“When I look at a person, I see beyond the persona and the temporary attributes of age, beauty and style. It is there that I find the circles and roundish forms that create the essence of the human figure and define my preferred artistic style – Bolismo.”  -excerpt from Guilloume’s book, “Emotional Connections.”


Disciples by Guilloume

“Disciples” by Guilloume, bronze wall relief


Guilloume ‘s minimalist bronze sculptures are sleek, fluid forms that represent human emotions and relationships, each with its own narrative to explain the symbolism and story behind the piece. Usually in pairs of two or more to signify unity, his figurative bronzes are faceless, yet full of expression in their shape and movement. Guilloume’s goal is to evoke the idea that as human beings, we have more similarities than we do differences. “Bolismo” defines Guilloume’s artistic intention to convey a range of human sentiment and relationships from simplistic forms. He created this style early in his career to set himself apart as an artist who “shows what’s in his heart” through his work.


Guilloume patinas a bronze sculpture in his studio.

A passionate family man with nineteen siblings and now a wife and kids of his own, Guilloume draws artistic inspiration from the relationships in his own life. He was born into a large and loving family in Columbia, where he received an MFA in painting and established a successful artistic career. He then met the love of his life, Gladys, who became his wife and constant inspiration. Long after most of his family had moved to the United States, Guilloume transitioned his life and career to Los Angeles; but soon found his real home in Santa Fe in the early 1990s.

“When I flew into the Albuquerque airport, my heart started to move and I thought, ‘this is my home.’”

At Pippin Contemporary, we are excited for our latest acquisition of Guilloume’s work. His first monumental piece, “New Partners,” was recently installed in our courtyard and is one of the first sculptures to welcome you to Canyon Road. The eight foot tall bronze represents a male and female form, their gender noted by their subtle differences in color and shape. The two figures are attached at the base but gracefully extend upward into their own space, symbolizing the partners’ rooted bond but also their individuality.

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“New Partners” at Pippin Contemporary on Canyon Road.

In his narrative that accompanies “New Partners,” Guilloume explains its symbolism:

There is a powerful psychic and emotional connection that exists as the very foundation of most life-partner relationships. I have chosen to depict this by joining the couple’s feet as if they were two tree trunks springing from one root system. The distance between the figures symbolizes the importance of giving one’s partner space so they may realize and attain their own mission in life.

Like many of Guilloume’s sculptures, this piece was inspired by his relationship with his wife, who he has now been with for 30 years. Love and unity are central themes in his work as he creatively expresses his love for his wife and family through figural bronze relationships.

With the year coming to a close, Guilloume reflects and looks forward to what’s ahead. “2014 has been the biggest year for my career and 2015 will be even better. As artists, we have to dream big; to dream big, we have to work hard.”

A Tribute to Kandinsky: Inspiration in Color

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • December 16th, 2014

The painting is monumental, taking up about a six by ten foot space on the museum wall; a space that now dances and swirls with brilliant color and untraceable abstraction. Straight and curved lines along with varied shapes of vivid color mingle on the canvas to create a haphazard, almost theatrical, experience. Taking in the piece, your eyes dart from side to side, top to bottom, trying to make sense of the colliding figures and colors. Finally you discover a central form, an oval, which seems to act as the eye of a compositional hurricane, surrounded by swirling color and form.

composition 7

“Composition VII,” Wassily Kandinsky, 1913

The piece is “Composition VII;” its creator, Wassily Kandinsky. It hangs on the bright white walls of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1995 along with only fourteen other Kandinsky paintings, together making up the exhibition “Kandinsky: Compositions.” In front of the painting stands an awestruck Aleta Pippin, attempting to memorize the active bursts of color that seem to radiate Kandinsky’s energy.

“Though only fifteen paintings were displayed, I was thrilled that we went to see the show,” said Pippin. “Pictures of art never do justice to the real thing. Seeing Kandinsky’s paintings in person was inspiring to say the least.”

Pippin had begun painting just a few years earlier in 1992, and like Kandinsky, she started out creating representational work. Her paintings mostly consisted of portraiture, although the desire for abstraction seeped through in the blurring color that occupied the backdrops of her paintings.

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Early representational portraiture by Aleta Pippin.

For Kandinsky, the transition into abstraction came in the early 1900s through a series of sparked inspirations, one of which was an 1896 Claude Monet exhibit in Moscow. He was astounded by “Haystacks at Giverny,” a series of Monet’s paintings depicting impressionistic haystacks in fields near Monet’s home in Giverny, France. Kandinsky later writes about his reaction to the work:

haystacks monet

“Haystacks at Giverny, the evening sun.” Claude Monet, 1888.

“It was from the catalog I learned this was a haystack. I was upset I had not recognized it. Dimly I was aware too that the object did not appear in the picture. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendor.”

Another push towards abstraction for the Russian artist, who is credited as being the first purely abstract painter, came from looking at his own work in a different light. One night when Kandinsky came home to his studio, he was enchanted by a painting he did not recognize. After a closer look, he realized it was his own piece lying on its side. Kandinsky recognized that subject matter lessened the impact of his paintings, and from that point on he began removing it from his work. This would eventually earn him the title of “the father of abstraction,” and “pioneer” of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Color Abounds by Aleta Pippin at Pippin Contemporary

“Color Abounds” by Aleta Pippin, oil/canvas, 30×30″

For Aleta Pippin, the move toward abstraction resulted from a desire to experiment with imagery, color, and various media. She relates to Kandinsky’s epiphany of removing the subject matter for a more timeless and freeing composition.

“When someone views a painting containing subject matter, there is a reaction based on their relationship to that subject,” explains Pippin. “If they’re viewing an abstract painting, they have the opportunity to consider it on a deeper level, for instance, simply enjoying the color or perhaps analyzing the artist’s message.”

Kandinsky, also a renowned art theorist, took a spiritual approach to his work, analyzing the effects of color on the mind and soul. In his book, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” he explored his theory that color can create an “inner resonance” with the viewer by provoking a sensory experience within their soul.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.46.43 PM

Left: “Riding the Range,” Aleta Pippin, acrylic/canvas, 36×36.” Right: “Improvisation 26,” Wassily Kandinsky, oil/canvas, 1912.

To say Kandinsky was a “colorist” is an understatement; he devoted his life to it, which is why Pippin couldn’t look away as she stood before his paintings in LACMA on that June afternoon in 1995. Her work thrives on color and has a similar spiritual bent. “I believe that true art comes from within; color is central to my individual expression,” says Pippin.

Dancing through the Seasons o-c 48x40 High Res

“A Tribute to Gerhard Richter..Dancing Through the Seasons,” Aleta Pippin, 48×40″ oil/canvas

The trickling effect of artists inspiring artists is how art movements are born, with creative leaders carrying the influence of master artists that came before them. For Pippin, inspiration comes from artists living and dead who appreciate a sense of color along with timeless and spiritual interpretations of abstract ideas. The visual expressions of Gerard Richter and Claude Monet have directly influenced Pippin’s paintings, and abstract expressionists like Kandinsky, Rothko, and de Kooning serve as an overall inspiration to her painting style.

With these artists as her guides, Pippin creates liberating works of art with an intuitive use of color and energetic freedom. See her vibrant abstractions hanging at Pippin Contemporary for your own interpretive experience, or find them on her artist page of our website.

Pippin Contemporary Artists: A Collection of Christmas Memories

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • December 11th, 2014

“My favorite part about this time of year is the shared spirit of Christmas…the love, joy, compassion, and Christian charity, the celebration of the human condition manifested in hope and faith.”
– Tony Griffith, abstract surrealist painter


Christmas Tree Lighting on the Santa Fe Plaza

The holiday season is a special time of year. It’s a time for giving back, a time to make memories with family and friends, and a time to start traditions that are joyously anticipated year after year. The heartwarming nostalgia, childlike excitement, and blissful emotions we feel around the holidays can be hard to explain, difficult to put into words. However, artists at Pippin Contemporary have shared some of their own special holiday memories and moments with us, putting everyone at the gallery in the holiday spirit as we look forward to the magic of Christmas in Santa Fe.

Decorating cookies, sending personal holiday cards, and hosting Christmas parties are a few favored traditions of our artists. Those who live locally look forward to the Canyon Road Farolito Walk, a celebrated Christmas Eve event hosted by Santa Fe’s art community. Aleta Pippin recalls her first year participating in the magical walk:


Farolito Walk on Canyon Road, Santa Fe. Photo Credit: Eric Swanson.

“Hundreds of people descended on Canyon Road at dark to walk the length of it. Paper bags filled with sand and a candle inside,”Farolitos” as they’re called in Santa Fe, line the street and light the way. Luminarias (bonfires) are lit along the route to warm carolers. Some of the galleries are open, serving warm mulled cider and biscochitos…yum! Everyone seems to be in a merry and festive mood. It has since become one of our favorite Christmas traditions.”

In addition to the traditional festivities, many artists use the holidays for creative rejuvenation; a time to step away from the easel and enjoy blessed moments with loved ones. But for some, it’s more difficult to take even a much-needed break from the studio.


Kevin Robb in his studio.

“Kevin thinks about his art 24 hours a day, it’s just who he is, he lives to create sculptures,” says Diane Robb, wife of steel sculptor Kevin Robb. This statement is quite literal – Kevin suffered from a massive stroke in 2004 that left him physically challenged with limited verbal communication, but the return to his studio brought him back to life through creative stimulation. He continues to design his monumental sculptures with the help of studio assistants who fabricate his dynamic and contemporary visions.

Diane admits that their family doesn’t allow Kevin in the studio on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or even the day after. It’s strictly reserved for time with family. Even though he protests being away from his work, it proves to have a positive affect.

“The holidays are a time to pause and take a breath,” says Diane, “It’s amazing what happens when he steps back a minute – the creativity flows.”

Although the departure can be difficult, getting out of the studio also means collecting fresh inspiration. Tony Griffith uses the opportunity to immerse himself in the southwest landscapes that inspire his surrealist paintings.

“I love to experience the outdoors and nature at this time of year,” says Griffith. “I hike on mountain trails fresh with snow, which also serves to inspire my art.”


“Taking Off,” Aleta Pippin, 6x6x2.5″ oil/panel, donated to Santa Fe Artist’s Medical Fund auction.

Inspiration takes many forms around the holidays, from snowy landscapes to spirited giving. Many of our artists use their talents to give back during this time of year, which proves to be rewarding and inspiring for their artistic motivations. Aleta Pippin always donates a painting to the Santa Fe Artist’s Medical Fund, a yearly auction that supports emergency medical needs for local artists. Michael Monroe Ethridge gives back with song, using his musical ability to entertain for local charity functions. Stephanie Paige uses her artistic passion to instill a love of art in young children as a volunteer art teacher for kids.

“The gift of art was given to me and I am meant to give it away,” explains Paige, “What better way to give than give to a child who loves art.”

A few of our artists have reflected on Christmas memories where their art touched someone’s life in a special way. Here are a few personal stories that will get you in the Christmas spirit…

Michael Monroe Ethridge:


Michael Monroe Ethridge in his Naples, FL studio.

Years ago, early in my artistic career, there was a talented young girl that was selected for the lead role in the Nutcracker in our hometown. She was from a broken home and her parents were very limited on their income. I painted a 30×40 oil painting of her holding a nutcracker. The local theater used it for their promotion of the show and I gave the girl the painting as a special gift. It was definitely a win-win to be able to use my art to touch someone else’s life during the holidays.

Aleta Pippin:

I met a couple (Linda and John) in Santa Fe celebrating the end of chemo treatments who purchased a very large painting. In a few months, they purchased two more. About 10 years later, I received a note from Linda – “Aleta–it’s been almost 10 years since we met you in Santa Fe and made our first purchase–it was our celebration of chemo being over and our beautiful art is a daily reminder of that.”

This is just one of the many comments I’ve received about how special my paintings are to collectors. It is wonderful to have a career creating something that helps people feel uplifted in some way, whether a marker of a life-changing event, as in this case – or that feeling of joy they get when they look at the work. I’m blessed.


Pippin Contemporary in winter.

As the holidays approach, we hope you feel inspired to create your own traditions and sacred memories. Cherish this time of year for the festive atmosphere, the spirit of giving, and the blessed time with loved ones.

Happy Holidays from Pippin Contemporary!

Mysterious Reflections: Suzanne Wallace Mears Mastering the Art of Glass

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • November 26th, 2014

“My comfort zone is the unknown. I don’t have a rule book.”


Suzanne Wallace Mears with one of her glass sculptures.

Oklahoma City artist Suzanne Wallace Mears certainly jumped into the unknown when she began experimenting with glass, now her preferred medium. After working with ceramics as a principle art form for more than 20 years, Mears imagined kiln-fired glass would be an easy transition into a realm that offered a similar creative fluidity. While she found the latter to be true, glass was anything but an easy venture.

“It was a disaster! I was blowing glass everywhere,” said Mears. “The challenge was a surprise, but I’m not a quitter. So I just kept on breaking glass until I didn’t anymore.”

Mears was first exposed to the intriguing world of glass while showing her ceramics at a gallery in Aspen, Colorado. Here, she was exhibiting her work alongside Dale Chihuly, William Morris and Richard Royal, pioneers of the contemporary glass movement in the 1980s. While she wasn’t immediately drawn to it, the open-ended possibilities of the medium seemed to continuously permeate her mind and pique her curiosity. In 2002, she took the challenge head-on and focused only on kiln-fired glass for the next ten years. Now a master of the once mystifying medium, Mears shows in Oklahoma City and Santa Fe galleries, participates in art fairs and museum exhibitions, and has installed personal and public installations of her work all over the country.

Japanese Teahouse, kiln-formed glass, 16.5" tall

Japanese Teahouse by Suzanne Wallace Mears, kiln-formed glass, 16.5″ tall

Even though she may have had to consult the rulebook a few times in the beginning of her journey with glass, Mears continually seeks the unknown to broaden her creative ideas in the studio. Continuous exploration gives her work a fresh perspective that inspires viewers and collectors. As a result, her pieces encompass various themes and no vessel, mask, totem, or bowl is the same. However, color and light are two consistent factors across her body of work and are responsible for the energy and illusion of glass art. These elements breathe life into pieces like “Blue Coyote” and “Japanese Teahouse,” transforming static sheets of glass into energetic works of art.

“I’m a colorist – it’s what makes my world turn,” confesses Mears. “I can’t imagine living in a black and white world. It’s just the way I am.”

Unstructured shapes and textures in Mears’ sculpture take on bold, luminescent colors, creating a unique abstraction that glows with refracted light. Lighting gives glass a uniquely dynamic quality, which, according to Mears, is one of the most fun aspects of creating and collecting glass art.

Blue Coyote, kiln-formed glass, 19x11x4.5"

Blue Coyote by Suzanne Wallace Mears, kiln-formed glass, 19x11x4.5″

“I hope people never leave a glass piece in the same place forever,” says Mears. “A beautiful piece of glass placed in the dark doesn’t have any life. Put the same piece in a window and it’s a thing of beauty that will make your soul sing.”

Light and color provide a mystery that beckons Mears forward with her adventures in glass. While she still continues with ceramics and also paints (working in different mediums is an inspiration and idea-provider for Mears), glass has become her most rewarding creative outlet.

“My glass sculptures are about color, happiness, and optimism. I want people to look at my work, feel happy, and smile. I hope it lifts all bad things off of them.”

Click here  for an insightful step-by-step video of Mears’ artistic process and get a feel for how static sheets of glass come to life in her studio. You can view her complete portfolio on her artist page of our website.

Pippin Studio: Spontaneous Discoveries In Color

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • November 12th, 2014

When walking around the bright and airy studio where Aleta Pippin creates her lively abstract paintings, she often stops mid-sentence to notice a spot of vibrant red, subtle blue or energetic yellow on one of her canvases.

“I just love the color in that piece,” she suddenly interjects.

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Aleta Pippin’s studio, Santa Fe, New Mexico

It’s not hard to detect that Pippin is a colorist; she’s quick to tell you how much she loves color and this fascination is easily apparent in her work. While her artistic process is spontaneous and her work created without premeditation, she does notice continuous changes in her style, technique, and, of course, use of color. She thrives on artistic experimentation, which keeps her work fresh and exciting to collectors and to her as a creator. However, she also periodically spends time reevaluating where she’s been and how her career is artistically progressing, while also still maintaining a consistent style that is true to her body of work.

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A work in progress in Aleta’s studio. Notice the painting on the easel.

Energy Abounds by Santa Fe abstract artist, Aleta Pippin

This is the completed painting – Energy Abounds by Aleta Pippin, oil on canvas, 48×48 inches.


“This time of year, I start to assess what I’m doing and why I’m doing it,” explains Pippin. “I ask myself if I’m going in a direction I want to continue.”


Circle of Life created 2012

In the past several years, Pippin has been subconsciously directed towards a “softer” color palette as she calls it, shifting away from the saturated primary colors that typically permeated her canvases. While she still uses bold red, yellow and blue hues, she has started mixing softer, muted colors on the canvas that give her work a more complex feel.

“Besides being experimental, what I offer is color,” says Pippin. “That’s always the feedback I get from collectors and people who view my work – that they love the color. So that’s where I am right now, I’m working in more color blends than staying with primaries.”

Since Pippin allows her present emotions to dictate her paint, she can’t pinpoint the exact moment when shifts in her work began to happen. She guessed the color palette altered when she started working on smaller panels in acrylic, but can’t assign the beginning of the transition to any single piece or moment of revelation.

Inspiration An Inside Job by Aleta Pippin at Pippin Contemporary

Inspiration…An Inside Job created 2014

“I’ve created anywhere from 850 to 900 (from 2004 through 2014) at this point in time,” says Pippin. “When and why do they start changing? It’s interesting even to me.”

As you make your way through the organized chaos of Pippin’s studio, stepping over drying canvases and carefully avoiding clusters of paint bottles (“I spend a lot of time on the floor,” Pippin confesses), she will stop momentarily to explain the history and “past lives” of some of her paintings, even comparing an image of the original work with the current one. One of these reworked pieces is “Momentum,” which has existed under three different titles.

Now a lively abstraction of muted purples, bleeding blues and bursts of yellow, it was first an impressionistic nude titled “Compelling.” After deciding that a nude form was not harmonious with her current aesthetic at Pippin Contemporary, she decided to rework the piece to stay true to her abstract style. Then came the painting’s second life as a nonrepresentational “Sunrise, Sunset,” and now the layers of renewed color finally hang at the gallery as “Momentum.”

"Compelling," original paintings underneath "Momentum"

Compelling original nude under Momentum, 2012

"Momentum," 48x30" oil on canvas

Momentum, 48×30″ oil on canvas, 2014

Inspiring ideas, subconscious artistic decisions, and quick movements of color on canvas – it all happens in Pippin’s sacred studio space. The Santa Fe artist creates an energy with her work that she can feel while she paints, the same energy that her collectors take with them when they buy one of her paintings.

“I can always feel a shift when I come into the studio. I don’t know what it is, but there are positive things happening here and it feels good.”

Visit Aleta Pippin’s artist page to view more of her energetic abstractions and read her full artist statement. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more behind-the-scenes photos of Pippin’s studio!

Youthful Inspirations: Greg Reiche Named 2015 ARTsmart Honorary Artist

  • by Kelly Skeen
  • October 29th, 2014

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” –Pablo Picasso

The creative energy and unlimited imagination of a child is something we all strive for. Free thinkers who aren’t afraid of making mistakes, children are some of the world’s best artists and can inspire the most renowned art world professionals. Giving today’s youth the opportunity to explore these creative freedoms is vital to their personal growth and to the future of an artistically vibrant and innovative society.

“Opening eyes and minds, one child at a time” is the mission of ARTsmart New Mexico. This Santa Fe-based nonprofit organization fosters creative thinking and individuality in New Mexico’s youth through visual arts instruction and workshops. Every year, ARTsmart gives Santa Fe high school students the opportunity to create original artwork under the guidance of a professional local artist. Selected Honorary Artists, distinguished in New Mexico and throughout the world, work alongside high school students in weekly workshops from November to January. The project culminates with “Step Up to the Plate,” a gourmet dinner and auction event honoring the instructing artist and his or her students. Attendees can bid on student artwork as well as a newly created piece from the Honorary Artist.

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Past Honorary Artist Phyllis Kapp works with Santa Fe High School students.

At Pippin Contemporary, we are proud to announce that sculptor Greg Reiche has been named ARTsmart’s Honorary Artist for 2015. Reiche is a native from New Mexico who creates stunning abstract sculptures using stone, glass, metal, and light. His work takes many different forms, ranging from small studio pieces to monumental site-specific installations. His stonework is created from simplistic forms such as wedges, arcs and circles, which interact with their surrounding environments in spectacular ways. Inspiration for these pieces often comes from a line in the landscape, local architecture, or the texture of a found stone.


“Tuntawu Offering,” sandstone, glass, and steel.


In addition to his static stone sculpture, Reiche has also begun exploring a more dynamic body of kinetic glasswork. These pieces reflect even the slightest movements in their environment, coming alive with the changes of wind and shadows. “I like that the work is so responsive,” said Reiche. “I can put it in any environment and have completely different results.”

Reiche hopes that viewers of his sculpture find their own narrative in the work, and he is using the same philosophy as he prepares for the upcoming ARTsmart workshops. “I want to find a way to bring out the individual voice of each student,” he explained. “I hope to find a balance between structure and freedom that allows their voice to come out.”

Reiche is also looking forward to sharing in the students’ creative energies as they find their true individuality. “New explorations keep things fresh and exciting,” he said. “Working with the kids will definitely inspire new work in me.”

Reiche installing a kinetic glass sculpture.

Reiche installing a kinetic glass sculpture.

Click here to buy tickets to “Step Up to the Plate,” and don’t forget to check Reiche’s artist page for more images of his work!