Monique Belitz The Shape of Water, 2020 Mixed media on paper. 282” x 72”
In my past I have moved from the Netherlands to Germany to the East Coast of the United States, then the West Coast. From there I went to New Mexico and Nebraska, finally returning to New Mexico. Each time I moved, the various landscapes and the light particular to the place were the most important aspects for me, because I breathe and live landscape. It is the reason that I am now living at 8100 feet elevation in the most fascinating area north of Taos, where the eye can travel endlessly in each direction. Clouds above me often veil the mountains. Other times they obscure the valley below me. I find intricately drawn patterns all around me. I have the choice between mountains, an ocean of sagebrush, the Rio Grande gorge, piñon forests or wildflowers. I can breathe freely in this wide open space. I pay my respect to the forces that shaped the land, which in turn shaped the local cultures, as well as to the flora and fauna that inhabit it, both in my art and my life. On a personal level, for the first time since childhood I have been able to connect my memories to my current environment, giving me a feeling of my own history finding its home.
Since I moved to Lama I have been working in three different techniques. The first is a combination of painting and drawing using acrylic ink, either on paper or on wooden cradled boards. These colorful paintings, mostly diptychs ranging from 8” by 16” to 12” by 24”, are mental “snapshots” of the ever changing quality of light, color and mood of vistas I happen to observe from my property, or while driving. Once these “snapshots” are firmly burned into my memory, I return to my studio and begin to translate them by first blocking in the main shapes with a brush, then using pen and ink to overlay the painting with patterns describing various surface qualities in fine detail.
My second approach falls into the category of mixed media, where I re-use my old watercolors, prints and drawings by tearing them into pieces to create small collaged landscapes, often with a small woman in it who expresses in her body language an emotional state, an insight, or a particular memory.
I have used my third approach for my most recent pieces and the many options that it offers will spawn many more paintings. It is loosely based on my first approach, but allows for a greater sense of creativity and exploration, while still depicting the northern New Mexico landscape with its huge variety of textures and vegetation. However, I am drawing with either just one color or slight variations of one color of acrylic ink onto a large wooden cradled board, 36” by 24”, with a lively underpainting of burnt sienna and Payne’s Gray acrylic paint. I typically include small cultural vignettes that attest to the history and presence of the mix of local cultures, such as a nearly overlooked local cemetery or traditional activities such as picking mushrooms and collecting piñon nuts. With great care I draw each tree, shrub and rock as an individual and insert various birds to add narrative. These lush, rich and varied pieces invite the viewer to slow down in this fast-paced era and to mindfully wander around and discover what it means to live in the northern Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Monique Belitz, born in Utrecht, the Netherlands in 1959, is a graduate of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich (BFA) and the University of New Mexico (MFA). Belitz’s current work explores the dichotomy of belonging while being a foreigner. These issues are expressed in the visual language of her new surroundings in Lama, north of Taos, New Mexico, both in hybrid paintings and mixed media pieces. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Maryhill Museum, Goldendale, WA; the Las Cruces Museum of Art, Las Cruces, NM; the Pinakothek Hallbergmoos, Hallbergmoos, Germany; and the Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD.