After arriving in northern New Mexico seven years ago, Jo Bertini fell in love with the mountain ranges, the high desert terrain, and the sere landscape. Three years ago, she made her home near the Abiquiú residence of Georgia O’Keeffe, another artist who drew inspiration from the natural wonders of the American Southwest. Prior to her arrival, Bertini spent a decade as a sketch artist for archaeological and scientific expeditions, traveling to the desert regions of Australia (her homeland) and the Thar Desert of northwestern India. Since Indigenous tribes don’t permit photography of themselves and archeological discoveries can’t be disturbed on their land, Bertini made quick drawings of people, flora, and fauna for the scientists’ records.
Now she paints in oils, and in May, Bertini displayed a series of large canvases depicting the Four Corners region in a solo exhibition at the Ent Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs. “This is the nadir,” she says. “It made sense to be here and to use all of my experiences in the desert to paint the American Southwest.” The swirl of colors on Bertini’s canvases—rosy pinks, lavenders, oranges, and yellows—evoke a fantastical, candied euphoria. And though she insists that photorealism is never her goal, the colors she uses can be found in her southwestern surrounds: the golden leaves of a birch tree, for example, or the clear turquoise of an autumnal sky. “I don’t even have to make this stuff up,” she says. “It’s right there! The colors, the colors here are incredible. So bright, and so vibrant.”
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