Richard Mayhew’s improvisational trees

Richard Mayhew “Untitled (Purple Landscape).” Courtesy Museum of the African Diaspora.
Richard Mayhew, “Westwood,” 1977, oil on canvas, 54 x 44″, de Saisset Museum permanent collection, Gift of Ronald R. (’70) and Gwendolyn O’Neil.

Richard Mayhew has been labeled an American Impressionist, a neo-Barbizon, a romantic Realist and a painter of Expressionistic landscapes. ‘I don’t like characterizations too much,’ chuckled Mayhew, walking through a new show of his works at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. ‘But if anything, I guess I’m an improvisationalist. My painting has to do with that spontaneous moment.’ Like a jazz great who mixes classical with scat, ballads with bebop, Mayhew’s work is a blend of styles, from landscapes reminiscent of Monet to abstractions in the style of Clyfford Still. At its best, says Mayhew, 84, it is created from ‘a moment of spiritual truth.'”

“‘To me, the tree is spiritual symbolism,’ said Mayhew, who is tall and elegant and has a quick and hearty laugh. ‘I like the tree because it’s so anonymous. I loved it when I overheard two women looking at one of my paintings and one woman said, ‘That’s Oregon,’ and the other woman said, ‘No, that’s Scotland.’ He uses landscapes, he said, to interpret his feelings. ‘Landscape has no space, no identity. It allows the painting to be about emotion.’ As someone who has lived through racial strife and oppression, Mayhew also used landscapes to represent survival and renewal. ‘If there is outside oppression, you find ways to survive.'” (via Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle)

The Art of Richard Mayhew,” curated by Bridget Cooks. Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA. Through Jan. 10. 2010. Also on view “The Art of Richard Mayhew: After the Rain,” The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, September 9 – November 22, 2009, and “The Art of Richard Mayhew: Journey’s End,” The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara, September 26 – December 4, 2009.

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