The Artwork of Ann Huston
To say many artists have set out to capture the mystery an unique beauty of New Mexico would be an understatement. Anyone with a penchant for the arts can, at any given moment and place, be stopped in their tracks by the ever-changing palette that is The Land of Enchantment.
The New Mexico palette is grand. Wide open skies with cloudscapes that seem impossibly big…and impossibly blue. Landscapes that literally stretch as far as the eye can see, complimented by things as big as ancient volcanoes or as small as a lone adobe blending into the desert. But as big and encompassing as the beauty of New Mexico can be, what really gives New Mexico it’s particular awe-factor is its ever-changing subtleties. It’s these subtleties that artists strive to bottle up and splash across their canvasses. Enter: artist Ann Huston.
Ann has history of art behind her and an everliving drive to create. Her grandfather had a commercial graphic design firm and is told to have hired Georgia O’Keeffe before her rise to fame. Ann’s father who still resides in Vermont was a painter and raised his family through his own graphic design business as well.
Ann grew up in Vermont, but as a child she would ride the Santa Fe train with her family and was struck by New Mexico’s mystery at a young age. As a teenager in the 70s she decided to move to New Mexico and study Rio Grande weaving where she started making rugs and working with the colors of the earth. In the 80s she began painting and officially settled into Taos in 1984. At the time, Taos was a unique place where one could choose the lifestyle as an artist and feel supported, settled, and part of a thriving and alive community.
“New Mexico is the most special place on earth” Ann says. “Because of the high altitude, you are closer to everything. As a result we are treated to such a special light that adds beautiful mystery to the stories of the land and people.”
At first glance into Ann’s artwork, it is clear that we are getting something unique in both inspiration and form. Yes, we are presented with something that soothes and moves the eye but we are also invited to step in to be a part of a New Mexico moment. A moment that embodies both present and past. A moment that stands still but sends the imagination swirling.
Ann isn’t just a storyteller she’s a story catcher. “I paint from the inside out rather than the outside in” says Ann. “I aim to capture the present moment while feeding off the intuitive, spiritual essence of the history of my surroundings.”
Perhaps what is most striking about her storytelling is the medium through which she conveys the stories. Ann uses pastels to compose her paintings. The pastels by themselves are unique in contrast to the oils, acrylics, and watercolors so often seen showing off New Mexico’s splendor; however, what is most unique is how the pastels highlight certain subtleties that the average observer of New Mexican scenery doesn’t necessarily know they are appreciating. But after viewing Ann’s paintings, one can’t venture out into New Mexico without a new appreciation for the stunning interplay of pigments throughout the day.
“The thing about pastels is they are pure pigment. I work on sandpaper made for artists and have to add lots of layers into the grit to get the subtleties. You can’t add light like you can with oils because of the layers so you have to keep the light in mind as you go. Ultimately it really brings out the essence of New Mexico in mysterious, haunted, and beautiful ways” says Ann.
There is much more to Ann’s paintings than just putting the pastels to paper while working in a studio. “I’m not a plein air painter but I prepare paper on boards and head out on location. I start with sketches and will even write words that come to my mind in pencil. All of my paintings still have the sketches and words buried many layers deep behind the finished product. Then I bring it back to the studio and simplify until I have the proper essence of the location. To me it’s more important to convey the feeling of the location than to just represent the landscape. Sometimes I can even feel the stories of the people who have lived and worked on the land and within the adobe walls.”
Ann’s notoriety as a painter often brings people through the door that commission her work. “A commission painting should really be called a ‘commission -collaboration.’ As the artist, you are focused on capturing a vision for your client. You envision where it will be hanging and what it will mean for years to come. A commission can be challenging, rewarding, and heartfelt all at the same time, which adds layers of depth to the painting that generally reveals a hidden story.”
Her most recent commission work was commissioned by a client from California with her client's vision to commemorate and celebrate her journey out of breast cancer. “The pink and warm hues throughout the painting and the subtle pink breast cancer awareness ribbon at the corner of the blanket (as if woven into the blanket), was intended to help capture my client’s wishes for the painting, her personal celebration, and for her to share her story with others. She feels it is important for her to spread awareness and detection. As I was painting, I kept thinking of my client and the Navajo prayer words Walk in Beauty.”
It doesn’t take an article being written about Ann’s artwork to know that when Ann creates, it is a spiritual experience for her. “Painting is my form of meditation: it is going to a place of calm and quiet strength,” says Ann. “People always ask, ‘With life being so crazy, how do you do things that are so peaceful?’, to which I respond because that is my essence and the essence of the land.” Ann’s artwork is probably best summed up from a quote from her website, “the solitude and peace that we all seek is in the magic of Ann’s work.”
Ann still lives and works in Taos out of her home studio nestled in the mountains. Her home embodies a New Mexico style home and was once a featured home in New Mexico magazine.