Musician Steve Guthrie is the subject of many of Charis Congail’s realistic paintings on display in the solo show “The Idea of Wilderness,” which opens at 7Arts Gallery on June 2.
“Steve and I initially met at the Santa Fe Brewing Company Eldorado Taphouse, and when I saw him another time I walked up and said I was going to paint him,” Congail recalls. “His response was ‘why.’ I simply said, ‘you’re beautiful, man.’”
When Congail first saw Guthrie, she pictured him in a natural environment. Guthrie has inspired Congail’s latest body of work that explores the relationship between man and nature and what wilderness means to people.
A U.S. Air Force brat and award-winning artist who trained in sculpture at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Congail showed her kinetic sculptures in numerous regional exhibitions for several years after college. During a decade-long hiatus from art in which she immersed herself in the business world, she flipped houses with her husband in Wisconsin and Palm Springs.
While living in Palm Springs, Congail experienced an epiphany when her 18-year old cat Iris died. “I’d had her since birth,” she explains. “Her death threw me into crisis, and I began thinking about the meaning of life. I realized that I didn’t want to flip houses any more and wanted to do my art again.”
Rather than resume sculpting, which requires a bit of space, she started painting in oils, using classical/traditional methods and contemporary themes.
“My art classes in college were pretty much about what I was feeling and didn’t offer much formal training, so when I decided to paint in a realistic style, I basically had to teach myself how to do it,” she says.
After moving to the Santa Fe area in the summer of 2016, Congail began focusing all of her attention on painting. “I’ve really hit my stride here,” she adds.
Congail is a member of the Oil Painters of America and the Portrait Society of America.