Matthew Higginbotham

“When I’m walking the dogs, picking up the mail, or hiking in the wilderness, I tune in to the dynamic vibration of opposites around me,” says Matthew Higginbotham. “There’s darkness and light, peace and chaos, subtlety and directness, intensity and muteness, vastness and intimacy, soft and hard. All of these contrasts are magnified in the Grand Canyon, where you look into infinite depth and space.”

Higginbotham first visited the canyon in 1991 on a hike to Havasu Falls. “I was swallowed up by this living, breathing place that also pierced my soul,” he recalls. The experience was a catalyst to changing his career from a California educator to a professional potter in Spokane, Washington. By 1995 he transitioned to a full-time painter of the desert Southwest. “Initially I was drawn to northern New Mexico’s mission churches, but over time my focus became the yin and yang of the landscape and nuances of light on water, grasses, clouds, and flowers. When I did a series of paintings focused on the colors in the rock faces nearby Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, I finally got the courage to tackle my impressions of standing on the canyon rims.”

Higginbotham lives with two lab-mix rescue dogs – one black, the other white – on more than an acre of land in the open expanses of Eldorado south of Santa Fe. In a two-car garage-turned-studio, he paints under natural light with a limited palette of warm and cool primaries plus white. Using brushes and palette knives he applies thick and thin layers of pigment to his canvases. “I begin with a kinetic palette-knife underpainting that allows me to create a visceral effect as if sculpting with paint,” he explains. “Although I’m inspired by what I see, I’m not interested in a literal interpretation, but rather a canvas that is alive, palpable, and shimmering with color.”

While striving for what he calls an “arresting sense of drama and emotions,” Higginbotham also wants his paintings to be avenues for “healing and self-awareness. I hope the viewer experiences a sense of openness that goes to the heart – and expansiveness that looks inward,” he says. “Painting for me is a spiritual practice, and my intention is to both honor and encourages the protection of the land by sharing my experiences with its sacred and profound medley of opposites.”