Southwestern Sojourn: Local Artists Travel for Their Work

“I’m on a roll,” said Egg Harbor painter Ginnie Cappaert, speaking from Santa Fe. She was into her second week there, working on her oil and cold-wax paintings, which often build up through 40 or more layers. 

“I have been painting pretty much every day,” she said. “The humidity is so low here that the layers are drying fast, and instead of waiting for the next day to paint another layer, I can do it in the evening.”

Cappaert is renting a workshop space that’s set up for painting classes during the summer and is offered as a live/work space for artists during the winter. It’s about 50 feet by 60 feet and has a full kitchen, a loft with a bed, a couch and a writing desk. Paintings in various stages cover a wall.

Ginnie Cappaert stands in her rented studio space in Santa Fe.

“I can place them all over, hang them, lean them and really step back and look at them, and often discover little areas that aren’t quite working,” she said.

In Egg Harbor, Cappaert’s home/studio/gallery on Highway 42 looks out over Green Bay and has a distinct horizon. But now, instead of water, she’s looking out at a desert landscape that stretches to distant mountains.

“I am still focusing on that horizon line, but it is becoming a bit more random and maybe not as straight,” she said. “I am not trying to paint mountains, but all the layers with the pinion trees and the aspens, the mountains and the dirt – the horizon area is getting a little looser. 

Ginnie Cappaert is focusing on adding “Southwestern colors.”

“My goal this month is to focus on the colors of the desert. I am trying to focus more on a limited palette, doing a lot of mixing of colors from a limited palette, but I find when I am working on a piece, the color goes wild – but that’s just my nature.”

When her time is up, Cappaert will leave some paintings with Globe Fine Art, which represents her in Santa Fe, and bring the rest back to Egg Harbor.

The Martinez Gallery in Santa Fe.

Sante Fe Connections

Sandra Martinez is painting on Tyvek, a material she started using for a solo show at St. Norbert University in 2019. She has set up a studio in the back of her gallery on Canyon Road in Sante Fe and is planning a summer show of her new work.

“I just got back from visiting my husband, Wence, in our Oaxaca [Mexico] studio,” she said. “We have a special moment right now, where his oldest brother and his son are both working with us! They are amazing us with their skill and drive.” 

This summer, the Martinez Studio, south of Jacksonport, will show their weaving and her paintings, along with furniture by Michael Doerr, who was also in Santa Fe this winter.

“I’m feeling left out,” Baileys Harbor painter Cheryl Stidwell Parker wrote on Facebook. “It seems like all the cool Door County folk are in Santa Fe.”

“I’m envious of Ginnie,” said Paula Swaydan Grebel, who shows work at Ginnie Cappaert’s Cappaert Contemporary Gallery in Egg Harbor and at Milwaukee’s Tory Folliard Gallery. Grebel had also left Door County to head west with a carload of painting supplies. She and her husband, Randy, are from California and like to return there for several weeks to visit family. 

“I had goals,” she said with a laugh, but this year, they found that family members needed help instead: An almost-two-year-old grandson’s caregiver had broken her wrist, so they became caregivers for three weeks.

Paula Swaydan Grebel paints on a California beach.

“I felt discombobulated in the brain,” Grebel said, although in retrospect she sees that she had started far more paintings than she had realized at first. But that was a departure from her usual practice.

“Typically I am very structured,” she said. “I get an image, do thumbnails, draw it out, figure out values, figure out my colors and transfer it to canvas, and start painting. In California, I did the color and worked on line on the canvas and saw what happened. You look at your work and right away you hate it or love it, but the next week you may feel totally different. Sometimes it has to percolate. Sometimes we create outside our ability to understand what we did.”

Home Is an Inspiration, Even from Afar

Donna Brown – a painter and printmaker who owns the White Barn Gallery near Baileys Harbor and also shows work at Fine Line Designs Gallery in Ephraim – usually spends much of the winter in Oaxaca, Mexico, but last year she and her husband sold their house there because the area was becoming too crowded. 

When I called Brown to ask how she’s faring during a Door County winter, she answered in southern California, where she was visiting her mother for a month and then heading to Mexico. While in transit, she turns to watercolor.

“That is interesting because I haven’t put a lot of effort into watercolor the past couple of years,” she said.

Brown likes to paint nature, and often that’s Door County nature, even when she’s in southern California or in Oaxaca.

“Sometimes I am influenced by the colors of the south, but I often use birds from the north. My influences are organic things – woods, plants, sky and water.”

Whether it’s California, Oaxaca or Sante Fe, the inspiration of Door County is never far from the minds of the many artists who venture to warmer climates come winter.

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