One sees a landscape with all five senses, but one views a painting with the sense of vision alone. It is Shelley Horton-Trippe’s singular talent to be able to create a painting that conveys all the aspects of the land—the sound of tumbling water, the smell of the pines, the taste of the wind, and the warmth of the sun—in a way that even a sightless person might experience it. Her canvases are filled with emotions born of memory and empathy.
Landscapes of New Mexico
Horton-Trippe is so highly skilled that she is able to concentrate on feeling and take care of formal concerns on a subliminal level. Her work is entirely abstract, yet is landscape-based. “I paint a specific place, at a certain time of day, in an exact season of a particular year,” says the artist. “It’s so much about the moment when you’re remembering a situation. Maybe you want to capture it because you would like for it to last forever, yet you know it’s going to pass very quickly. There’s a sense of knowing that the sublime is so fleeting, and because of that there’s an underlying melancholy.”
Horton-Trippe’s childhood friend and longtime dealer, Carson See, is quick to point out that the somewhat sorrowful nuances evident in her darker images give the brighter ones more weight, and are crucial to an understanding of her entire body of art. “I have known her work all our lives,” he says, “and I have followed her happiness and her sadness. Her work is sexy and it is real because of the radiance of her spirit. She is not influenced by other postmodern artists, or by the market, or by current trends in art. She is utterly true to herself.”
Horton-Trippe has been a longtime presence in New Mexico, even though she has spent time intermittently in other places. She was living and working in Santa Fe during the heady days of the eighties, when the art scene burst forth exuberantly at a grassroots level. She was a full participant in the creative ferment that marked the era. In the years since, she has painted nonstop, taught college courses, and exhibited in the United States and abroad.
Throughout her career, she has continued to explore her deep ties to northern New Mexico. Her paintings are as strong and as moody as the landscape itself. Their color fields and intuitive lines may suggest skies or cliffs, or may echo the curve of a waterfall. A vertical cluster might be a forest; a bold circle is unmistakably the sun.
Horton-Trippe has immersed herself in the lore that brings the land to life. She speaks of a certain spot where the tumbling Rio Embudo empties into the Rio Grande. The local legend says that if you stand in the water there, you will find the love of your life within a year. She smiles and says, “I haven’t gone there yet.”
–Suzanne Deats from the book, New Mexico Landscape, 2006;
Fresco Publications, Albuquerque, NM