Painter Maurice Burns, who moved to Santa Fe in 1975 to set up visiting artist and artist-in-residence programs at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), fell in love with Santa Fe as soon as he arrived.
“I don’t like big cities, and I was fed up with city life,” explains Burns, who had lived in London prior to relocating to Santa Fe.
Although he has always loved to draw, Burns hadn’t initially planned to become a painter. He was designing computer systems for Chicago City College in the late 1960s-earning a salary substantial enough to drive a Porsche-when he attended his first life drawing class.
With support from the GI bill (Vietnam era service), Burns enrolled at Rhode Island School of Design where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Postgraduate study took place at the Royal College of Art in London.
Being a painter and living in and around Santa Fe for more than four decades has meant taking some outside jobs to survive. Burns has painted movie sets, laid tile and done leatherwork at a saddle shop. He especially liked the times he was able to work as a caretaker for area mansions because he could spend most days painting.
An artist with a natural facility for drawing the figure, Burns paints large portraits and interior/exterior scenes (56” x 76” is his favorite canvas size) that are often filled with jazz bands and couples dancing. Jazz great Thelonius Monk (1917-1982) and boogie-woogie pianist Jimmy Yancey (1894-1951) have made it into his work. For a man who had spent many happy hours in Chicago jazz clubs in the 1950s and 1960s, painting musicians and dancers is an expression of joy.
Recently, Burns has been painting dancers he observed and photographed in Cuban clubs when he visited the country during the 8th Havana Art Biennial in 2003. Some of these works will make it into a show featuring Burns’ oeuvre that the Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA) will host in its cinematheque gallery in 2018.
“Maurice is a familiar face to almost everyone in the arts community,” says Stuart Ashman, CCA’s executive director. “His work merits broader exposure, and that’s what CCA’s mission addresses.”