V

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Richard Mayhew

Landscape, n.d.

Watercolor on paper

11" x 14"


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Landscape

Throughout his life, abstract expressionist painter and professor Richard Mayhew has been preoccupied with light and color and its effects on the natural environment. Mayhew's absorption with nature, which he attributes to his paternal grandmother's lessons in Native American traditions and attitudes regarding what he describes as "nature lore," is evident in his sensitively painted and richly colored landscapes of forests, fields, swamps, and outcroppings.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature in Mayhew's works is his exceptional mastery of color, illusion, and space. During the 1950s, Mayhew's interest in the effects of light led him to study the science of optics. By 1960, his attention shifted to an examination of color's effect on form. During the 1960s, Mayhew sought to apply color, space, and form within landscapes to express, in his words, "a universal space with the illusion of time." Although Mayhew's landscape paintings do not contain overt references to the African or African American experience, he believes that the timeless emotional quality of his works has an intimate connection to the warm and cool rhythms of jazz and the blues.

The solitary tree in Mayhew's Landscape, rooted in the cool green grass and softly framed by the warm sun and distant mountains, exemplifies his expertise in the use of color and space to psychologically identify abstract elements of the landscape with human emotions and ideas.  T. F.

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