Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist

Artist Reid Bandeen

c. Reid Bandeen

Summer Wheat, 6”x8” Plein Air oil painting, by Reid Bandeen

c. Reid Bandeen

Descent, 8”x10” Plein Air oil painting, by Reid Bandeen

Luminous land—Paintings of Reid Bandeen

—Oli Robbins

I have compared painting to lots of things—poetry and music, to name a couple—but never have I considered the relationship between painting and extreme sports. What could there possibly be in common between artistic creation and, say, paragliding? Well, Placitas landscape artist Reid Bandeen is well-versed in both activities and, in his life, the former eventually supplanted the latter.

Before Bandeen began devoting his free time to art-making, he and his wife sought out adventure in the form of paragliding and mountain climbing. Paragliding, which requires a parachute-like-wing that can be packed up and carried anywhere, reveals sublime views otherwise seen only from a helicopter. Says Bandeen, “Painting’s different, but it’s definitely thrilling and exciting—and mystical to me.”

After hearing him explain the sensation that accompanies flying above a mountain top, I had an “aha” moment—the link between this electrifying hobby and painting became clear. In both pursuits, you are vulnerable (physically vulnerable in the case of paragliding, and emotionally vulnerable in the case of painting). Painting demands that you give physical form to images that before existed within yourself. Whether using a brush on canvas to memorialize a moment in nature, or feeling both small and universally connected as you glide above the awesome and expansive earth, you are engaged in a reverential act.

Bandeen regards the land as sacred, and painting allows him to look “longer and more closely at the things we see around us every day.” And while he has forever been a “nature-guy,” he has not always been a painter. His career is in water resources; initially, he investigated environmental pollution, and he currently works as a consultant in water rights administration.

Bandeen is aware and appreciative of New Mexico’s natural beauty, which he works to preserve and enhance. He was drawn to the arts as a child, and took drawing and painting classes whenever he could, but was engrained with the mindset that art is “nice and fun to play around with,” but sooner or later, one must “get down to business and do ‘real’ work.” Interestingly, Bandeen’s “real” job ended up leading him back to his predilection for painting. It heightened his admiration for the land and exposed him to environments he wanted to capture artistically. And one day, as Bandeen was stuck in an office on a blazing Arizona summer day, his fate as an artist was sealed. Someone came into his office selling landscape prints, and Bandeen purchased a representation of Pedernal. Says Bandeen, “I remember thinking through the fog of work pressure that, one, ‘I want to live in New Mexico,’ and two, ‘I really want to paint like that.’”

It was only a matter of time before Bandeen and his wife relocated to New Mexico. “New Mexico, to me, has always had a unique character—it’s just not like the rest of the US. I think it’s part of the living Native American tradition, the diversity. And there’s truth to the cliché that New Mexico is the “land of enchantment.” Art is a way to acknowledge and respond to that, and to celebrate it.”

Bandeen identifies with the Native American value that the sacred is ubiquitous, and that the energy in nature gives rise to all life. Through art, Bandeen’s time in nature is preserved and made palpable. Says Bandeen, “It’s about recognizing the extraordinary in the ordinary. You don’t have to go to Yosemite Valley to experience beauty—elements are all around us. We draw from that more than we acknowledge it, and it does sustain us. It’s about magnifying that.”

While still living in Tuscon, Bandeen restarted his art education by studying with local accomplished watercolor artists. He eventually moved onto acrylics and then oil. Later, living in Placitas, he began taking classes with Arturo Chavez, and became aware of the “full extent of what landscape painting is all about.” He learned painting techniques and theories that allowed him to express both the physical and mystical aspects of the land. At present, Bandeen is fascinated with shadows and composition. “I’m discovering,” says Bandeen, “that you can have all of those things—values, color harmony, edges, the portrayal of the different kinds of light—but the whole work has to hang together because it’s read in an instant. It has to convey that feeling virtually instantaneously. Composition has a lot to do with that; it’s how the viewer is led into the painting.” Bandeen prefers to paint on site, and works with the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico. At times, he’ll finish a piece in the studio, or use a photograph to assist him later. But, says Bandeen, “photographs lie; they don’t portray what the eye is seeing.” 

Bandeen, like nineteenth-century American landscape painter George Inness, aspires to depict the magnificent in nature. Inness, a historical teacher of Bandeen, also created landscapes that present nature as infused with the spiritual. 

On May 10 and 11, Bandeen will open his doors for the Placitas Studio Tour; his is studio #6. He will be showing his work at the juried exhibition of the Plein Air Painters of NM, at Gary Kim Fine Art in Santa Fe, May 2 to May 17. His work can also be viewed at Placitas’ central gallery, Arte de Placitas. Visit his website to hear more about the artist and preview his enchanting landscapes.

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