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Artists Inspired by New Mexico Landscapes

Artists Inspired by New Mexico Landscapes

Artists Focus on NM Landscapes for Inspiration

Nature Artists Host Exhibit at Open Space Gallery

An upcoming exhibition features two artists whose artwork shifted after seeing the vast, open land of the Southwest.

“Crossing Paths” features work by Jennifer Pretzeus and Monique Belitz. The exhibition is at the Open Space Visitor Gallery, a city-run art space dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of Albuquerque’s unique landscapes.

a stretchen out map

Monique Belitz

Belitz was born in Urtrecht, a city in the Netherlands founded by the Romans in the first century. As a European, she’s used to places with a long history. When she came to America, she moved to Oregon and was put off by a state with a history that only goes back a little more than 150 years.

She earned her Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Arts in art history from the University of New Mexico, where she revived a special connection to a land that has so much history.

Belitz is currently living in Nebraska where she teaches all levels of painting, two-dimensional design and art history classes at Doane University. She has shown her work in Nebraska, New York, Oregon, New Mexico, Ohio, Colorado, Massachusetts, California, Panama, Germany, and South Korea.

“In New Mexico, the history goes back 2,000 years. Ancient cultures are still living there,” she said. “The landscape is majestic. I can’t tell you how much I miss it.”

Belitz collages her own work, tearing up and putting her drawings, prints, and watercolor paintings back together to create new transitions and meaning. One of her large-scale murals on paper is about the migration of sandhill cranes, snow geese, and blackbirds. The work creates intricate patterns of marks that suggests different types of birds without realistically representing them.

“Hyper-realistic paintings bore me to death. Everything is already there. Why should I look?” she said. “I don’t want to spell everything out. I just want to suggest, so the viewer has to think.”

A sketch of a rock

Jennifer Pretzeus

Pretzeus has been hiking the Pino Trail in the Sandia foothills for 10 years. She uses the boulders she sees along the trail as source imagery for her work.

“I feel like I’m in a sculpture gallery when I’m on this trail. There are so many interesting formations,” she said.

The titles of her boulder pieces relate to the meaning she’s assigned the rocks. “Stepping Stone” is an abstract representation of a large boulder blocking the trail.

“It reminds me to view obstacles as stepping stones,” Pretzeus said. “Every time I go to that trail, it’s to find balance,” she said about her piece, “Balance Rock.”

Pretzeus has been obsessed with rocks since she was a child, starting her first collection in fourth grade. She creates her own pigments out of clay, dirt, minerals, ash and charcoal. She also encases a horse hair in the wax to create a single, irregular line in some paintings, or carves thin lines into the wax, filling them with oil paint.

“I use the land itself so it’s a part of the piece,” she said.

Other works by Pretzeus feature pieces of scrap steel juxtaposed with wax, emphasizing a dichotomy between man and nature, a balance and a necessary exchange.

Pretzeus studied graphic design and advertising at Kent State University in Ohio, and also studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York and Evanston Art Center in Chicago. Currently, she studies at the Encaustic Art Institute in Santa Fe, where she also shows her work.

“Crossing Paths” is at the Open Space Visitor Gallery (6500 Coors Blvd. NW, Albuquerque) from Jan. 14 through March 19, with an opening reception on Jan. 14 from 2-4 p.m.

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Sara MacNeil is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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