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Grant Macdonald: Into the Light

August 15, 2018 - Kelly Skeen

Grant Macdonald moved to the southwest over 30 years ago because he was drawn, as many artists are, to the drama and grandeur of northern New Mexico’s landscape. But through his paintings Macdonald ultimately seeks to portray nature’s most modest subtleties, such as the elusive movement of light in a glowing desert sunset or the serene translucence of a misty Maine morning. Grant Macdonald likens this unassuming painting approach to Shakespeare’s philosophy on acting, referenced in the third act of Hamlet. In this scene the players are told, “Be not too tame…but let your own discretion be your tutor… it is with this special observance that you overstep not the modesty of nature.”

“I think that quote applies to anything in the arts in saying ‘don’t go over the top,’” says Macdonald of Shakespeare’s acting advice. “Good musicians, actors and painters should observe that.”

Just as an actor is taught not to exaggerate his lines, Grant Macdonald avoids excessive dramatization of the landscape in exuberant color or brushwork. Instead, his paintings reveal the softness of nature’s grandest gestures. “Nature does have a certain subtlety and modesty to it,” says the artist. “The color harmony and the lines that you see in mountains, trees or rocks have a very appealing visual impact. I believe our aesthetic sense is formed by our experiences in nature.”

This is not to say that Grant Macdonald’s palette isn’t rich and complex; his Santa Fe sunset paintings, several of which will be on display for his one man show, have a vivid yet ethereal quality that transports us directly to their source. Pieces like Light at Evening Timeor Evening Light in Velarde capture the setting sun’s more subtle moments through glowing architecture and bowing shadows. His solo exhibition, Into the Lightreveals these nuances of light in a variety of ways, from the mountains to the coast, from hazy afternoons to golden evenings. While most of Macdonald’s subject matter is northern New Mexico, his fascination with light follows him on regular trips to the Maine coast and even Europe where shifted palettes and perspectives inspire new paintings. “I like variety and I don’t want to get stuck on any one thing,” explains Macdonald. “I try not to let one location influence the other too much, which is a good discipline for me.”

Grant Macdonald debuts over 20 new landscape paintings for Into the Light, opening August 31stwith an artist reception from 5-7pm.


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