Originally published in The Taos News, Tempo Section >>

Staff report Sep 19, 2022 Updated Sep 22, 2022

Painting the light –
Anja Wulf at Chimayo Trading Taos

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Anja Wulf’s landscape paintings are “visual poetry, revealed in form, light and color.” Rebekah Powers, one of the gallery staff at Chimayo Trading Del Norte, remarked that “when people walk into the gallery, they stop to ponder Wulf’s landscape paintings.  

Alicia Abrums, co-owner of the gallery with Gabriel Abrums, said “I gravitate to her work —  there is something about the way she uses color — And if you get up close to her mountain landscapes, you can see these thin exquisite layers of light.”

Tempo reached out to the artist — here are the highlights.

Please tell us about your creative course to now — medium choice and insights.
I’ve been painting since I was a little kid, because it’s something I’ve always loved. But there was a turning point where art became much more central to my existence. My world collapsed when I lost my young daughter because of a tragic accident. That’s when painting became my lifeline. It allowed me to articulate things for which there were no words, and it gave me a way to inject meaning and beauty into a world that seemed like a very dark place at the time. I couldn’t not do it anymore, and haven’t stopped since.

And I migrated towards abstract landscapes as my principal genre, because it assimilates all the elements of what I enjoy and value most about painting.

I’m ardent about color and texture. Because my paintings might be a dozen layers deep, I’ve defaulted to acrylics, because oil just takes too long to dry for this kind of texture. To me, the layers of a painting are like the experiences of a life: every layer, even if it’s no longer visible, informs the next, adds texture and depth and a certain richness of perspective to what is present in the here and now.

I want a painting to be a visceral, dynamic experience, something that draws you in, something that creates space for you and that you can look at again and again and see something different every time. I’m not interested in realism. I’d rather create something that invites a subjective two-way communication between itself and the viewer. Different people will look at a painting of mine and have different takeaways, because they’re informing the painting even as it’s informing them. You can’t do that with realism: realism tells you what’s there. It doesn’t invite you to take part in the experience of its viewing.

We’ve already got a big noisy world screaming at us all day long, telling us what we should do and what we should think. I don’t want my paintings to tell you what to think. Instead, I want to create a wide open space, where you can just take a breath and feel more expansive and be there with it and decide for yourself what to think about it — or maybe not think at all.

Creating space has always been a big part of what I do as an artist — and when I paint that horizon line across the canvas, that is what I’m doing. It’s the place where two worlds meet, and the painting isn’t done until it’s a harmonious meeting of those worlds, even as it explores the tension between them and makes use of that dynamic energy.

What books are you reading and what is on your nightstand?
You’re asking this question at an interesting time, since I just became enamored with picking mushrooms in the mountains of New Mexico. So right now I’ve got the Field Guide to Mushrooms by the National Audubon Society, Art Works by Woody Guthrie, and a Lee Child novel on my nightstand.

Where are the places in Taos that are your go to for creative inspiration?
Besides the “usual” places that offer magnificent scenery in Taos, I love the drive south out of Taos, past the gorge and through the mountain landscapes. I love how the Taos Welcome Tree stands sentry to the beginning of this amazing plateau.

I’ve been exploring the theme of home in my recent body of work: what it means, and how, since the pandemic, our value system has shifted more toward creating, finding, or returning to our true home. I’m never without a camera when I’m driving around Taos. Even the most mundane grocery store trip is filled with breathtaking natural scenery that just begs to be incorporated into another painting.

Chimayo Trading Del Norte retains several of Wulf’s landscapes in their gallery. For visual details see  Chimayo Trading Del Norte website chimayotrading.com/ or visit the gallery next to San Francisco de Asís Mission Church, the historic and architecturally significant building on the main plaza of Ranchos de Taos.

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