Southwest art is more than art made about the landscape of the Southwest and Southwestern United States, to be sure. It is more than art by or about cowboys or Native Americans of the Southwest. And “Southwest Artist” is not a mantle necessarily sought or coveted as an artist. On the contrary, to many artists, expressive freedom must come first, an artistic expression that is not defined by color or style or subject matter… and labels, useful for purposes of categorizing, creating a shorthand way of thinking about what one encounters in the world, are in art often stretched and strained for the convenience of others, after the fact.
Living in the desert southwest, however, has had a profound effect on many artists, and Melinda Esparza’s art is in good company. Flinty is the heart and jaded the eye not captured by the novelty of a cloud in an otherwise cloudless week, or by earth, whose nude strata of colored minerals and sedimentary layers are testament to bygone eons when water and wind sculpted sand and stone, the dust of which is unsheltered by leafy canopy or loamy grass. When the State of New Mexico chose its slogan, “Land of Enchantment,” it was because the land spoke, declaring itself distinct. Art of New Mexico is bound to follow.
So when the land itself cries out for a special standing (and what Land, anywhere in the world, can lay claim to more “specialness” than the Grand Canyon), what artist attuned to color, environment, space and spirit can be in it, unaffected? A painting, or many paintings of the Grand Canyon are sure to arise.