A stunning testimony to creative spirit
John Nieto recalls the exact moment he decided to become an artist: “My [kindergarten] teacher put little smocks on us and we had easels with large newsprint sheets, long-handled brushes, and open-mouth jars of tempera paint. She instructed us to draw big and fill the space. From then on, I’ve never wavered.” In fact, even after battling cancer and recovering from a stroke, Nieto continues to fill canvases with bold brush strokes and vibrant colors, creating some of his most notable work at 74. “At this stage in my life,” enthuses Nieto, “I’m flooded with ideas for my art.”
A stunning testimony to Nieto’s prolific creative spirit is his recently completed acrylic painting Comanche Pony. Dazzling colors cause the eye to leap from the luscious purple on the horse’s cheek to the swath of magenta on the tail to the expressive swirls of the same hue under the front leg, evoking the untamed spirit of the pony. Lime green strokes set off the horse’s mane, punctuating his speed, while dramatic black outlines convey strength.
When creating a work like Comanche Pony, Nieto begins by exploring his mestizo heritage and incubating “the seed of a connection” to his subject matter, a creative technique he established early on in his career. Searching for artistic direction after graduating from Southern Methodist University in 1959, Nieto went to Paris on a “vision quest.” Viewing the works of the French Fauves, a group of early 20th-century Modern artists led by Henri Matisse who emphasized the use of color, helped to validate Nieto’s instinctual use of color. However, while providing stylistic and technical guidance, the trip did not inspire Nieto’s subject matter. It wasn’t until he returned home to New Mexico that his quest was completed.
“After the trip, I visited my grandmother,” shares Nieto. “She asked me if I thought I could paint about her people [the Apaches]. Since then, I’ve had a path to follow with my heart and soul.”
ABOVE: Comanche Pony, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48.
• Altamira Fine Art, Jackson, Wyoming, 307.739.4700, www.altamiraart.com.
• Nieto Fine Art, San Francisco, 415.393.4511, www.nietofineart.com.
• Ventana Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 800.746.8815, www.ventanafineart.com.