THE VIDEO PREVIEW of Harold Joiner's exhibition Colors of a Place, on view at Houston's awesome artist-run Archway Gallery Nov. 6 though Dec. 2, begins with a quote from Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh: "At one time you were a mountain, you were a cloud." For anyone who has traveled across the desert landscapes of the American Southwest and felt a deep connection to the land, Joiner's paintings and mysterious collages will look and feel familiar, as if you the viewer were meeting yourself and the world again.
Joiner grew up in New Mexico, the "place" the exhibition's title refers to, and his work is profoundly inspired by the history, culture and art of the region's indigenous tribes, who inhabited the area centuries before Europeans arrived in the Americas.
"There's a sense of openness in the desert landscape and a reductive abstract beauty that is captivating," says Joiner, who has traveled across and lived in deserts across the planet. His visual acuity for the shapes and textures of an ancient, abandoned pueblo ("Bonito at Low Light") or the deep and varied blues and greens illuminated beneath a receding, moonlit landscape ("Midnight Meadow") speaks to an inner experience, both his and hopefully the person viewing his work.
Complementing Joiner's landscape paintings are a dozen small paper-and-turquoise-stone collages, hung together in a grid — like icons in a church, or fragments of a large, otherworldly topography. The collective title for these works, "The Land of Enchantment," was first used by travel writer Lillian Whiting in 1906 to describe New Mexico, and eventually became the state's official, tourist-friendly nickname.
Turquoise, of course, is a sacred stone, used by the area's indigenous people in jewelry and pottery, and Joiner's thoughtful, alchemic approach to collage — and innate ability to create textures and patterns evoking earth, water, light and air — gives these lovely pieces a powerful spiritual aura.
Joiner, who holds an architecture degree from Texas Tech, returned to Houston in 2001 after traveling across and living in Europe, Africa, Asia and finally Saudi Arabia, where he worked for a Saudi architecture and engineering firm. Like many of Archway's talented roster of artists, who operate and show at the gallery as a collective, Joiner made the decision to become a full-time artist later in life, studying painting and photography at the MFAH's Glassell School in 2003 before making the leap to paint full-time in 2010. "My paintings are inventions, frequently inspired by specific places or memories," says Joiner in a statement on his website, "and they invite the viewer to see the world as a purely visual experience."
Joiner will be present to visit with guests on opening day, Saturday, Nov. 6, beginning at 2pm; he'll give a talk about his works at 6:30pm.
Joiner with his painting 'Sonoran Shade'
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