Thursday, July 24, 2014

7.24.14 ~ the outback series: mixed media paintings inspired by the western landscape by dawn chandler ~ opening august 2, 2014

always be my home ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 24" x 48" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

The Outback Series: Mixed Media Paintings Inspired by the Western Landscape by Dawn Chandler

These paintings are the direct result of my desire to merge my two distinct painting styles of 'traditional landscape' and 'mixed media-abstraction" into a new visual language for myself; a language that  conjures the experience and memory of landscape, without being overly literal. Memories and impressions of flickers of light, deep shadows, textures, patterns, the calligraphy of bird flight, shifting horizons, reflections of sky and of self come together as a collage—a patchwork—of passages and expanses of color; of bigness and smallness, of sight and silence.
Incorporated into these images are words, inviting one to pause and ponder. Echoing memory, some words are ghost-like, some are clear; some are nonsensical, others poetic.

just to stay ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

The text I've used are the responses to my query: What have you learned from your experiences in nature? Over the course of the last year, people of all ages and from all over the country have responded to this question posed on my website as well as on postcards that I've distributed. A good many of the responses came from teenagers—participants in Philmont Scout Ranch's Rayado Program, an intense three-week backpacking experience similar to Outward Bound.
Why not use my own words, my own answer to the question? Partly because I was curious to see what kind of a response such a query would elicit. Partly, too, I knew my own words might be too subjective--too precious--and I therefore might be reluctant to disrupt them. Further, I hoped that others' participation in this process would inspire me, and infuse the work with a soulfulness different than were I working from my imagination alone.

quiet and vast ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 8" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

wind swaying down slowly ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 8" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

My work on this painting series began in earnest in November 2013 when I was an artist in residence at Playa Creative Residency program in Summer Lake, Oregon—the heart of the dramatic, desolate Oregon Outback of central and eastern Oregon.
For five weeks there I watched the sun rise each morning, and then walked in the early sunlight, enthralled by the shimmering light, the immense clouds and curtains of dust that formed above the always-changing alkali Summer Lake. I watched the sunlight across mudflats and prairie grass and mesa-like ridge-lines; watched crows and hawks and ravens and geese and gnarled orchards and golden willows; watched deep purple shadows lengthen and recede and golden light cut across reflected blue sky. If you think I'm mistaken and am describing instead the landscape of my New Mexico home, you're not far off. For I was stunned to discover these two states more than 1,200 miles apart are akin in their breadth and majesty.

Each morning I began my studio practice by painting a small "traditional" landscape based on the views from my studio window. These are collected together in the work, Outback Meditations:

outback meditations ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 72" x 48" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014. Daily diptych (pairs of two) paintings created each day for 30 days while at Playa. They flow in the sequence of days from left to right, beginning in the upper left corner.  

From there I attempted to "abstract" the landscape, onto panels I'd prepared first by gluing them with printed text—the responses to my above-mentioned query. As I worked with paint and ink and layers of paper, words were concealed and then revealed through layers of color; whole sentences disappeared, and then words and fragments of phrases would emerge, forming an unexpected poetry. The same, too, with the landscape itself, as the painted geography would shift, be concealed, reconfigured, and revealed again:

water's edge, ii ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

edging on knowing ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 8" x 16" ~ copyright dawn chandler

Please join me in sharing this exciting new work.

The Outback Series: Mixed Media Paintings Inspired by the Western Landscape by Dawn Chandler is on view from August 2 - September 12, 2014 at Salon X, 226 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico, 87571
Opening reception Saturday, August 2, 6:00 - 8:00pm

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

7.15.14 ~ psa silver sage acceptance speech (philmont)

I am bowled over by the congratulations I've been receiving on FB and via email.  
Thank you—all of you—so very much.

A number of you have requested to read my acceptance speech for my Silver Sage Award, which was presented to me this past Saturday; I share it below. 

Silver Sage Acceptance Speech

There is no way that I would be here tonight if it not for Kathy Leach and Nancy Wells.
They led the way for me and all women working at Philmont on its trails and in its backcountry.
I owe so much to these two women, as well as the pantheon of inspiring, kick-ass women who followed them and further lead the way for me and countless others—women like Joyce Schroeder, Carol Fowler, Cathy Hubbard, Sioux Roberts, Mary Stuever, Laurie Hines, Kathy Makela, Peg VanValen.
To my eyes these women were goddesses, and they left me—and anyone they encountered—in awe. They were strong, they were smart, they were upbeat, they were more than competent, they could hike the pants off of anyone, and they each shone with their own light. 

These are the women whom I wanted to emulate. These are the women who, with so many others, represent the very best of Philmont.

And there are others— Others who, maybe weren't pioneers, and who maybe haven't held the "glamorous" jobs, but who have been just as dedicated, just as inspiring, just as kick-ass and just as crucial to not only my successes at Philmont, but to the success and operation of this entire Ranch. 

I'm talking about the women who—without much glory—do so much of the essential work of this place, from the Dining Hall to the Trading Post, from the Museum to the Health Lodge, from CHQ to PTC to Admin and all points in between and beyond. You women have helped me—and everyone. Every one of you is important. 
Every one of you has made a difference.
You sisters ROCK.

But of course it's men—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, cool, incredible—men who make up the majority of the Philmont staff.
It's the men of Philmont who hired me 31 years ago to be a Ranger.
It's the men of Philmont who finally woke up from their stupor and decided to hire women in the backcountry.
It's the men of Philmont who, 40 years ago, had the brilliant idea of the Philmont Staff Association.

And it's largely those same men who, sometime later, decided to hire a waitress with an art degree to be their first executive director.
For three decades you men have supported, encouraged, inspired and befriended me.
To each and every one of you — I am grateful.

And yet, all of this talk of men, of women.... in the end we're all simply people. We're a family of people who, despite political, spiritual, educational, vocational, social or gender differences, share something elemental—something that may run even a little bit thicker than blood:
We share a passion for this extraordinary place;
a passion for this unique, quirky, wonderful community of souls;
and a passion for this land that haunts us in our dreams all the rest of our days.

I'm happy to be a part of this quirky, wonderful, passionate family.
And I'm honored—and deeply touched—to receive this award.

Thank you.

Dawn Chandler
12 July 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

7.14.14 ~ silver on the sage...

This past weekend I had the honor — and I mean honor — of being awarded the Philmont Staff Association's Silver Sage Award.

First awarded in 2005, the Silver Sage Award is presented annually by the Philmont Staff Association in recognition of distinguished and exceptional personal service or contributions of an important and lasting nature, by any individual or organization, for the benefit of Philmont Scout Ranch, Philmont Program participants, and/or Philmont staff.

Here's why the PSA generously voted to present me with the award (and why so many of my paintings are of the Philmont country, and so many of my art patrons have a connection to Philmont!)

Dawn Chandler served six years on the Philmont staff. After spending four years as a ranger and training ranger, in 1988 she became the first female backcountry camp director in Philmont's 50-year history. She returned in 1989 for a second summer as CD at Abreu before going on to complete a master's degree in fine arts. After moving to Taos to become a painter and artist, Dawn returned to Philmont in 1997 as the PSA'a first executive director. In her six years in that position, she quadrupuled the association's membership, established its first office on the ranch, transformed its magazine, and earned the respect and acceptance of ranch management. Now an established Santa Fe artist, Dawn continues to capture the magic of Philmont in paintings of its scenic grandeur.  (From the Silver Sage Award program, July 12, 2014)

Sharing the stage with me were two extraordinary women: Kathy Leach and Nancy Wells. Through most of the last century, women were not allowed to work on Philmont's trails or in its backcountry. That started to change in 1972 when Kathy and Nancy were hired to be Philmont's first female Rangers.  Forty years later and these pioneering women are still inspiring, kick-ass goddesses in my eyes.

My friend Mark Stinnett — a former president of the PSA and the one who actually hired me to be the executive director all those years ago — introduced each of us. He put together a top notch slideshow for each of us, and in mine included many of my paintings of Philmont and Wheeler; it was fun — and touching, for I wasn't expecting this. 

Wonderful, too, to have so many friends there. Thank you, all of you.

A highlight yesterday morning was spending time talking to Kathy Leach and her husband — and adding them to my list of art patrons. They took home with them the painting below: Monsoon Season in Baldy Country (below). It just seems right that a former Ranger would want a painting representing the depths of Philmont's backcountry.

Philmont and the members of the PSA made me feel like a rock star this weekend. Thank you all so much. I remain deeply moved.

monsoon season comes to baldy country ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on canvas ~ 12" x 18" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Monday, June 09, 2014

6.9.14 ~ free painting!

april storm moving in over the sandias, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Happy to mail this little plein air painting off to one Jean Zaun who WON it — got it for FREE — simply by reading my last Studio Notes newsletter, responding to my wee little contest, and having her name drawn out of a hat.

What's that you say? You received my Studio Notes newsletter but saw nothing about a contest? Well you didn't read it carefully, my friend. Out of some 192 people who supposedly read the newsletter, a mere 6 people — SIX! —entered the contest. THANK YOU Todd Conklin, Trish Nadler, Leonore McDonald, Tina Welter, Pete Silldorff and Jean Zaun for paying extra-not-so-secret-careful attention! Your names will be entered in the Studio Pith Helmet for the soon-to-be Justly Famous End of Year Grand Prix Studio Pith Helmet Painting Raffle (amazing art prize yet to be determined)].

Missed your chance? Fear Not! Simply checkout my next Studio Notes newsletter for another wee little contest

Not currently subscribed? You can sign-up for my Studio Notes newsletter by visiting any page of my website at, entering your name in the subscribe to dawn chandler's studio notes newsletter field and hitting "subscribe".
And maybe next time I'll be mailing off a sweet little painting to you! :)

Monday, June 02, 2014

6.2.14 ~ and the air smelled like rain

and the air smelled like rain ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

A couple of weeks ago I'd ordered six 48" x 60" panels — HUGE canvases! — for some new mixed-media paintings I'm planning. They'd be shipped via special carrier, and would take a while. As I looked in my studio I realized that, except for a few tiny plein air sketches I'd done earlier in the spring, I have no recent traditional landscape paintings. NONE. All my landscapes are from last year or earlier. Yikes! how did that happen? [Easy: I've been busy with other—"non-traditional"— projects in my studio, soon to be shared here.] But seeing as my landscapes are my "bread-&-butter" the delay in large-canvas-delivery was providing a perfect opening in my calendar to get busy again building up my portfolio of landscapes. 

I don't know if it's the feng shui and easy flow of working in my new studio.... Or if it's having spent those few weeks earlier focusing on plein air painting and sharpening of my eye.... or if it's the result of limiting my paint palette then to just four essential colors and forcing myself to hone my color-mixing skills... Likely it's all of these. But the result these couple of weeks is that I've cranked out a solid painting nearly every day, my brushes and me singing with satisfaction.

Here's one of them — a story of rebirth. 

I abandoned this painting last year before completion, nearly throwing it away. It just wasn't working. Not sure why. Lacked contrast? Lacked a story, maybe?
But I saved it, and last week found it again, tucked into a stack of panels hidden under a table in my studio.

"Hmmm.....I think I can do something with this...." 
I searched through countless digital files for the original reference photo....Not there.; couldn't find it. No idea what photo I'd used. 
So... "Screw it: I''ll wing it."




Oops. But no title. 

My title imagination just felt spent. 

So.... I turned to my FaceBook friends to see what titles they might suggest and......WOW! What a cool response of poetic, imaginative, numerous, soulful, lovely suggestions!

Prairie School
Summer Serenity
Afternoon Thunderclouds
Big Sky, Big Dreams
Afternoon Storm
Mesa Remembrances
Mountains to Plains
Just a Little Past Nowehere, Left of Far Out
Colfax Comancheria
And My Breath Grew Wider
Vernon David's
Praying for Rain
Wide Open Spaces
Clouds Blessning Mesas
Through the Deafening Calm Comes Serenity
Noon Showers on the Horizon
Afternoon Showers
Cool Breeze Coming
And the Air Smelled like Rain
Untitled #127
Heaven on Earth
Awe #%?! We're Gonn Get Wet
Twilight Enchantment
Dragon Cloud
Prairie Afternoon
Smells Like Rain
100 Shades of Promise

Arriving Home Again

In the end though I've decided on "And the Air Smelled like Rain" — a little bit of poetry articulated by Rebecca Holcomb, but certainly touched on by others.

Still, these other titles are too splendid to let let go, so I'm just going to have to get busy and paint some paintings to match these titles.

For the record: This painting is based on that area of New Mexico that runs between Cimarron and Raton; as one friend put it, the "Colfax Comancheria"

Below, a brushwork detail:

Thursday, May 01, 2014

5.01.14 ~ spring! captured in 30 minutes or less

coming into leaf ~ ashbaugh park, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Despite a hard frost last night and the night before, spring has arrived in New Mexico. I know for sure, because I've borne witnessing to its gradual unfurling, as evidenced by these plein air paintings I've been doing in and around Santa Fe and Albuquerque for the past few weeks.

This little series has come about because of an ache — an ache to get outside, get my paint brush wet, play with color and hone up my rendering skills. Since settling into my new studio, the majority of my work in there has been the "busy work" of art-making: gluing stuff (mounting works on paper to panels; and building collage foundational layers for new works); painting the edges of panels; screwing in hardware and wire; photographing, inventorying, varnishing, etc. Important work, that surely needs to be done, but not all that "creative." Not really painting.

So....I found my remedy for that ache by getting outside, and trying to capture with paint and brush what I find out 30 minutes or less.

blustery april afternoon ~ ashbaugh park, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

april storm moving in over the sandias, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

courtyard blossoms, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

april morning along the santa fe river path ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

late afternoon april trees, ashbaugh park, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

april morning above the arroyo, frenchy's park, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

april morning in the backyard ~ albuquerque ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

rooftops & foothills ~ albuquerque ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

albuquerque april ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

morning on the edge of the sandias albuquerque ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

the last tree to bloom ~ ashbaugh park, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

04.28.14 ~ the devil's in the details...of a day's unfolding

The sunrise frosted boardwalk the crosses the north end of the pond at Playa. Our film-maker resided in the cabin in the upper right corner.

The Playa lodge.
A friend commented recently that my posts about my experience at Playa have been "tantalizingly short on details." Here then are a few details of how my days there unfolded.

I was there for 5 weeks, with 7 other residents: 3 writers, 2 sculptors, and 1 filmmaker, from places as diverse as NYC, The Netherlands and Port Townsend. We were each provided a private cabin, as well as a studio/workspace. My cabin had a small living room, a kitchen, full bath, a loft bedroom and an attached studio with high ceilings, big walls, and large windows looking out for miles to Summer Lake and the distant high desert mountains beyond. We each cooked our own meals, except for twice per week when dinner was provided in the Lodge—a beautiful soaring communal 
Thanksgiving at Playa was a blessing indeed.

The Summer Lake Hot Springs
space with a huge stone fireplace, an enticing library, dining area, large kitchen, yoga studio, theater room, and offices. [Playa was an inn before becoming a creative residency program]. Here we gathered for relaxation and conversation by the fire, or otherwise take a break from our work. If not in the Lodge or our studios, we might find each other at random times of day out on the paths rambling across the countryside.

Awake each day by 5am, I'd fix tea and spend the next hour writing letters or in my journal, or else reading. [5 weeks = 5 books]. Eventually I'd wrap myself in a blanket by a large east-facing window and meditate by the light of the breaking day.
Then a walk: camera in hand, heart soaring, eyes dazzled by the staggering beauty of the Oregon Outback (see my slideshow here.)

Return, radiant, to my studio.
My studio work table. I faced it east so that I could watch the changes and colors in the clouds and pond and lake.


Each day dotted with breaks here and there for coffee or conversation in the Lodge.

Once per week or so, a group of us would make an excursion to explore the surrounding area: groceries in Bend or Lakeview, a soak in the Summer Lake Hot Springs, a tap of cold brew and plate of tatter tots at The Pioneer Saloon in Paisley. Mostly though we kept close to Playa, hesitant to squander the gift of this magical place, a place made sacred by the friendships fostered and creative dreams nurtured in the midst of extraordinary natural beauty. 

Five months later and still I'm inspired by my time there.
Looking back across the pond to the lodge.