Adding personal reactions to art, Jeannie Sellmer’s work features an evolution through NM landscapes

Artist Jeannie Sellmer works from her home studio. His paintings range from impressionistic landscapes to pure abstraction. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Editor’s note:

The Journal continues the monthly “From the Studio” series with Kathaleen Roberts, as she takes a close look at an artist.

When Jeannie Sellmer was 3, she drew pictures all over the walls of her bedroom in New Jersey.

“Somehow I knew it was wrong, so I put a chair in front to hide it,” she said.

Her supportive parents bought her a sketchbook, an act that launched her studies at the Art Institute of Boston and, ultimately, a career. Today, the Albuquerque-based artist exhibits his work at Sumner & Dene Gallery, covering a range from impressionistic landscapes to pure abstraction.

Sellmer moved here from Massachusetts with her husband and dogs in 2005 because she could no longer face the New England winters. She joined a plein air (exterior) painting group.

“I met my tribe of artists,” she said. “I painted landscapes. They were kind of quick studies because the light changes so fast here and the shadows are different in an hour.

Jeannie Sellmer uses a variety of tools in her paintings. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Sellmer took his sketches back to his studio and created larger paintings. With their bare impressions of form and emphasis on natural light, they were recognizable landscapes. With time and artistic growth, his work evolved into more abstract, then completely abstract paintings.

At first, “they were much more faithful to the scene,” Sellmer said. “I added my mood and reactions to the landscape and it evolved more into my own interpretation.”

More recent works featuring bands of lightly blended colors reveal the influence of American painter Mark Rothko.

“When I was in school studying figure five days a week, it was (Impressionist Edgar) Degas and (Post-Impressionist Paul) Gauguin,” she explained.

Today, she is drawn to Rothko’s calm and elusive color shifts in his paintings.

“The softness of the edges and the subtle color transition is something that speaks to me,” Sellmer said.

These streamlined horizontal bands of color can give the impression of expansive vistas, she added.

She considers nature as her muse.

The first painting “Moon River” is his languorous interpretation of the Rio Grande at sunset.

“I went up one of these bridges that crosses the Rio Grande and took some pictures,” Sellmer said. “I turned it into a painting lit in the evening or at night.”

Dotted with bushy chamisa and tufts of juniper, “Morning Light” is another early work. It was born out of her days working outdoors at the Elena Gallegos Open Space.

The boldly textured crimson and orange horizontal lines of “Navigating the Way” feature more recent work.

“It alludes to the landscape,” Sellmer said. “I changed my work with oils and wanted to start using mixed media.”

The paint features burlap and gel pumice. The artist changed his tools from squeegee brushes, palette knives and brayers or hard rubber rollers, to create texture.

“It worked more from my imagination and my memories of landscape,” she said. “I was more about evoking feelings than describing a place.”

“Saffron Sky” is also marked by the slightly blended horizontal bands of colors evoking the landscape.

“I think I was exploring breaking down the landscape into its essential parts,” Sellmer said. “I no longer wanted to paint blades of grass or bushes. I never wanted to describe it literally.

“Generally, the main theme of most of my work is calm,” Sellmer continued. “People say, ‘Your work is so contemplative.’ There is enough chaos in the world. Art and making art is kind of my refuge.


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