Artists / California

Michelle Kondos

Borrego Springs, CA |

“The American West – what is it and why has it so defined our collective imagination? An ideal? A shared dream of freedom, space, and of infinite possibility? But the West is also smack-your-senses real – as real as the sight of a pronghorn disappearing into the haze of a perfect sunset, as real as the unexpected  rattle of a startled diamond back three feet off the trail on which I am walking.

“In my work, I try to walk the line between those two realms: immediacy and vision. I try to capture the ineffable magic of the place, while still honoring its can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it reality. Trying to paint it feels like walking a tightrope. The process captures my attention just as surely as that rattlesnake does.

“When I start a painting, it is like striking up a conversation with a weirdly familiar stranger. I have an image in my mind, but I never know exactly where the process will lead. I am always trying to find that fulcrum-point between, on one hand, western reality – and, on the other hand, that mysterious West that seems to lie behind the world we grasp with our senses, whether we are looking a majestic landscape or a humble antelope squirrel.

“I paint realistically in an age of much abstraction. There is room for us all – but to me just trying to unravel what lies before my eyes out here in this sacred landscape is discipline enough. I’ve been staring at it all, as perhaps only an artist can, for a very long time, and I still always feel that the West is trying to tell me something, something I can’t quite grasp – but maybe, just maybe I can get it onto a canvas.

“Sometimes I think see that holy ghost of the West in there, shining out through the paintings I do. Those are the paintings I love. Those are the ones I show. The rest get painted over.”

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