the Governor's Arts Award Winners

Jerry West

Santa Fe

2018 recipient, Artist, Painting/Other Media

Jerry West is considered among the most significant contemporary artists rooted in the vast landscape of rural New Mexico. "Jerry West is the real deal - an authentic artist documenting New Mexico lifeways from his own experiences, without a sugar coating," said Joseph Traugott, former curator of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Born in 1933, West grew up in the hard-scrabble New Mexico countryside before World War II. "Now age 85, West makes art every day, with a sketchbook always at hand in the glove box of his truck," said MaLin Wilson-Powell, a writer and curator in Santa Fe. "For five decades the artist has developed a thoroughly original brand of New Mexico magical surrealism." Writer William deBuys said what grabs him most about West's art is his ability to communicate a sense of place. "In his paintings I can hear the croak of the raven and smell the desert after a rain," said deBuys, who received a governor's arts award in 2017. "I can taste the dust on the wind in the midst of drought. When I look at his work, I feel envy. I want to write with as much heart and conviction as he can paint." The son of a WPA artist who eked out a thin living in the hard days of the Great Depression, West has maintained studios in Las Vegas, Bernal, Roswell, and at his home on the prairie near Cerrillos, close by the ranch where he grew up. "I do not think of him as a 'Santa Fe artist,'" deBuys said. "He belongs to New Mexico all of it. And his work expresses the depth and breadth of the state, as much as any artist has managed to do." In his foreword to West's book The Alchemy of Memory published in 2015, Traugott said: "Jerry West is an artist whose work has captured, with grace and understanding, the contradictions of modern life, along with the evolution of New Mexico art." In 2012, the Roswell Artist in Residence (RAiR) Foundation invited West to be its Distinguished Visiting Artist in Residence in honor of the New Mexico Centennial. That same year, West received a mayor's arts award from the City of Santa Fe. "Jerry West is a visual storyteller and a great ambassador, bridging the gaps between cultures and classes," said Stephen Fleming, director of RAiR, which received a governor's arts award in 2017. During his year-long residency in Roswell, West produced a prodigious amount of work recording his impressions of Roswell and southeast New Mexico. He also painted numerous portraits of RAiR artists and staff. "But Jerry wasn't satisfied with just sitting in his studio painting," Fleming said. "Something of a gadfly, Jerry dove into the Roswell community, meeting and befriending a very wide range of individuals from every walk of life. At one point, he painted a mural in a tiny Mexican restaurant downtown depicting political and intellectual figures of Mexico's historic past. At its unveiling, mariachi musicians played and children scampered about as our resident artists joined in the dancing." West "has become a New Mexico iconic treasure for painting and interpreting New Mexico culture and landscapes," said collector and arts patron Ray A. Graham III of Albuquerque.