The American Scholar: Jo Bertini

Breath of the last wild river2022, iridescent pigments and oil on French polyester canvas, 80 x 80 inches.

After arriving in northern New Mexico seven years ago, Jo Bertini fell in love with the mountain ranges, high desert terrain and serene landscape. Three years ago, she took up residence near the Abiquiú residence of Georgia O’Keeffe, another artist who was inspired by the natural wonders of the American Southwest. Prior to her arrival, Bertini spent a decade as a draftswoman for archaeological and scientific expeditions, traveling through the desert regions of Australia (her homeland) and the Thar Desert in northwest India. Since the native tribes do not allow photography of themselves and archaeological finds cannot be disturbed on their land, Bertini made quick sketches of the people, flora and fauna for the records. scientists.

Now she paints in oils, and in May Bertini presented a series of large canvases depicting the Four Corners region in a solo exhibition at the Ent Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs. “It’s the nadir,” she said. “It made sense to be here and use all my experiences in the desert to paint the American Southwest.” The whirlwind of colors on Bertini’s canvases – pink roses, lavenders, oranges and yellows – evokes a fantastical, candied euphoria. And though she insists that photorealism is never her goal, the colors she uses can be found in her southwestern surroundings: the golden leaves of a birch tree, for example, or the light turquoise of a an autumn sky. “I don’t even have to make this stuff up,” she says. “It’s right there! The colors, the colors here are amazing. So bright and so vibrant.

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