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Nationally acclaimed contemporary artist Carla Forrest paints the New West in her spectral luminescent works, inspired by direct observation of nature and life. Forrest attributes her love of painting with a palette knife to her undergraduate study of sculpture and modernism. She's a first-generation Russian-American who is inspired by contemporary Russian impressionism and the Pointillists' method of placing two colors side by side to let the eye blend them into another color.

Honored as a Local Treasure by the Albuquerque Arts Business Association, Forrest’s personal artistic mission integrates awareness of environmental conservation, community connectivity, and creativity. As the first-elected President of the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, Forrest expanded the fledging non-profit’s integrated mission into an artistic community dedicated to preserving and promoting painting en plein air – in the open air or outdoors – and an internationally recognized artistic organization that heartens public awareness about the natural, historic, cultural, educational, and recreational aspects of conservation and critical water issues in New Mexico. Forrest obtained her Bachelor in studio art from State University of New York, Master of Science in Teaching Visual Arts from Rochester Institute of Technology, and Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Learning and Instructional Technologies from University of New Mexico.

Artist Statement

I approach art as an observer of the soul, enlightening the viewer about the presence, wonder, and dignity of nature and life. I want the viewer to value place and person in a space of spirit and heart and bring this illumination into their personal environments. While painting en plein air, I think about scale and how insignificant and unimportant we are in relation to the natural elements like mountains, rivers, foliage, and fauna. I think about light—warmth and cool—and the play of highlight and shadow, and how nurturing our sun is in the cycle of life. This direct observation of nature and presence inspires my spectral luminescent works. My impasto pieces are created through a complex alla prima painting process starting with brushes and then layering tiles of color and incising lines using pallet knives. My palette and three-dimensional form comes from what I see in the Southwestern landscape−full spectrum colors and stellar shapes, not just greens, blues, and square angles. I just love New Mexico! It is a painter's paradise.

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