Continuing through April 6, 2011
Ever the intrepid landscape artist, Merrill Mahaffey continues to explore the dichotomy between high-desert cliffs and bodies of water in "Formations," a show that brings out another side of the esteemed Arizona artist by adding a few watercolors into the mix of his signature robust acrylics. Also a surprise are the many small, panoramic-photo-inspired works, such as the 11-inch-by-48-inch "Vishnu Waterline," a study of forbidding rocks meeting placid waters. The mini-panoramas contrast with the works he built his reputation on - the immense tributes to Western canyons such as the 20-foot-long "Panorama from Bright Angel Point" at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport.
A large part of Mahaffey's appeal is his self-description as a "spiritual naturalist" whose awe for the canyons, deserts and mountains he loves to personally explore can be so accessibly understood through his art. The spiritualism is in the perfect brushstroke to suggest water seeping through a sun-drenched rock face and in the play of light to uncover a winding canyon. It's in the way pools of water reflect jagged rock formations and craggy monoliths poke into the sky from a river gorge. The colors Mahaffey attributes to nature - turquoise, russet, dusty purple, sunflower yellow, to name a few - convey an attitude of reverence that also draws viewers in.