Antonio based artist, Cliff Cavin, has been a landscape painter with
two primary subject matters - the Texas Hill Country and New Mexico.
For Switch 36, I wanted to show both sides of his pursuits to
present an in-depth and cohesive look at his output. In these recent
offerings, Cavin’s light is more subdued, and the mood is not
necessarily melancholy, but more solemn. A traditional ode to the
bluebonnet is included in “Bluebonnet Blooms,” where a thicket of trees
are in the midst of colliding blue and purple flowers, that are
comprised of built up strata of weighty strokes of pigment.
In the other recent offerings from his easel, “South of Town” and “Late
Spring,” less emphasis is placed on the tried and true bluebonnet;
instead a proliferation of verbenas, a common sight on Texas hillsides
every spring, become gentle tides of violet brush strokes. Violet is a
color that has been known to draw philosophers; it is indicative of a
contemplative plane of being, and the emphasis is on what is not being
revealed, rather than what is.
economy of information is more telling in Cavin’s style of brushwork,
going for a heavier build up of layering and impasto to tell the story
of the lands that he has traversed, rather than meticulous detailing.
Untouched areas of Texas Hill Country remain sharp in Cavin’s attention,
a continuation of the Impressionist tradition. This undivided focus on
the elements of nature, color and light represents Cavin’s perspective
and his philosophical approach towards landscape painting.
Each geographic region dictates temperature, palette and color choices.
In New Mexico, an area famous for its glorious desert vistas, Cavin has
been an avid devotee to capturing the region’s visual splendor.
Attracted to the intense saturation of color that is observed in the
higher altitude of New Mexico, Cavin has been mesmerized in depicting
the magic that is witnessed in the desert, that is manifested in
extremes of light and shadow enticing one’s eye through the
In “Horizons” and “Forever Blue,” the colors are electric, intense and
dramatic. Gestural brush strokes make a tribute to the land by
celebrating its grandeur in scope and presence. Humble desert vistas
that would likely be overlooked become endearing; one has to marvel at
the tenacity of all life that calls such harsh, and at times
unforgiving, conditions home. Cavin shows us the desert, commonly
thought to be devoid of life, is exactly the opposite. His New Mexican
deserts are full of life; the landscape up to the horizon line is
populated with various plants, brush and cacti.
Cavin paints in a direct style, and edits out the extraneous details.
He shows us the crucial structures of the subjects he captures with his
brush, from verdant fields of Texas wildflowers to the indomitable
deserts of New Mexico. Color and light are the vehicles that Cavin uses
to draw attention to the miraculous that he sees in the world, with
heavily built up brush strokes that are jubilant in their physicality; a
painter’s vision translated to the two-dimensional, yet refusing to be
away in the hills of Helotes, Margie Barker has been diligently working
away on her craft in her studio. An astute observer and lover of the
land, she faithfully captures the springtime sun-kissed flowers that
explode in profusion on the off beaten tracks of the Texas Hill Country,
using acrylic paint applied with careful and patient strokes. In the
piece, “Vibrant Hill Country,” it is the intrigue of transition that
becomes a thematic focal point. As the live oak trees go through their
cycle of dropping leaves as the season changes, the tree on the right
“still hasn’t gotten around to it yet,” while the other is shedding its
foliage to make way for new growth. This all takes place on the stage
of a field heavily blanketed with yellow wildflowers.
Margie is fascinated by the paths and the presence of roadways and how
they cut and wind through the landscape, further encapsulating the
metaphor of the journey that is present in transition, through the
passage of time and the cycles of nature that are evident in the
environment. Due to the usage of color and the presence of light and
artistic license, she creates, in her words, “happy scenes” that she has
enjoyed doing for nearly half a century.
per her usual way of working, Margie amasses a trove of photo
references taken from travels throughout the Texas countryside, which
she will use to construct the elements of her paintings. “On the Way to
Llano” was conceived from that process. Using her intuition, Margie
took a nearly barren field with a slight sprinkling of bluebonnets and
graciously bestowed a vivid field of Indian paintbrushes, a common
wildflower seen in the Hill Country and known for its red color. She is
not tied to reproducing the landscape mechanically; a feeling will take
hold and guide her brush to communicate to the viewer the feeling of
beauty through the language of flowers.
The “Wren’s Nest” is a delicate orchestration of the extremes of life,
where the remains of a wren’s nest that once contained most vulnerable
occupants, is fortressed in the most defensive of flora, the prickly
pear cactus. The demonstration of opposites becomes apparent in
“Delicate Blossoms,” where the white flowers are neighbors with a cactus
that is in full bloom with soft flowers in pink and yellow colors. In
“Pop’s Old Home,” differing states coexist together as an abandoned
cottage is reclaimed by nature; manmade materials are ebbing away as
nature is triumphantly flourishing all around in the form of peach trees
bursting with blossoms and vivacious, colorful flowers - a poetic
metaphor for the inevitability of change.
Changes are constant phenomena, and it is very apparent in the landscape
as it cycles from one season to another. Even the creek beds she
portrays are poignant reminders, especially in Texas, that they will
only be full for a transitory time, and then possibly be dry throughout
most of the year until a generous rain comes along and replenishes
them. But, at least while they are full, it is a hopeful sign of the
benevolence of the renewing powers of nature.
In Margie’s landscape paintings the organic joy is present in the
colors of nature and in the details that she painstakingly renders. She
gives her audience glimpses of beauty that is undeniably present, yet
rarely seen, unless you are willing to go off the beaten path in order
to experience the transformative lessons that are inherent to the land.