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Sublime landscapes showcased in Light, Space, and Power: The Art of P.A. Nisbet

by Johanna M. Blume, associate curator of Western art, history and culture | Aug 25, 2017
Nisbet_Beneath_the_Blue_Moon_Bench

For more than 40 years, Peter A. Nisbet has been a student of fine art, and in the last two decades has received national recognition as a master of the American landscape. In honor of his selection as the 2016 Quest for the West® Artist of Distinction, the Eiteljorg is excited to present an exhibition of his works: Light, Space, and Power: The Art of P.A. Nisbet, which is open to the public from Sept. 10 to Nov. 19. Nisbet’s paintings communicate the extraordinary and often extreme beauty of the American West. He travels extensively, working on location in places such as the Grand Canyon, the deserts of the United States and Mexico, the Gulf of California and Antarctica. Each trip is an adventure, full of experiences he captures in paint.

Nisbet’s mother introduced him to art as a child, and he has spent his life honing his skills. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he is a former U.S. Navy officer with service in Vietnam. After leaving the Navy, he spent several years as a successful commercial illustrator and graphic designer in the East. In 1980 Nisbet realized he was ready for a change, so he moved from West Virginia to Arizona.

“One afternoon, it was one of those blue days where the sky is clear and the jets are leaving long contrails; and this jet was heading west,” he recalled. “The sun was low and it was picking up the contrail overhead. I had this vision, this flash . . . . It was the West. It just flooded in, like God. I just (thought), ‘I’ve got to go.’ It was like a wakeup call:  ‘Wake up, sell your house, leave, go. It’s waiting; your future’s waiting.’”

Nisbet’s paintings blend technical mastery with emotional depth. Each finished work contains a piece of the truth of Peter’s experiences as an artist and explorer. He releases them to the world where he hopes viewers see, understand and connect that truth to their own lives. There also is a spiritual dimension to his paintings. While rooted in the realist tradition of 19th century artists such as Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, and European masters such J.M.W. Turner and Rembrandt van Rjin, Nisbet doesn’t set out to recreate Western landscapes exactly as they exist. He seeks to convey their inherent drama and beauty, to elevate the raw power of the natural world and capture something of the sublime.

“For me the Western landscape best speaks in a language of the possible; the language of the horizon,” Nisbet wrote. “Art that embraces the drama of a journey bears witness to a larger narrative that is distinctly American. I travelled to the deserts because that is where I heard the voice most clearly. It is a voice I also recognize in paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Those works celebrate the universals: beauty, space and light. These things are apparent in Western locales such as the Sonoran Desert and the Grand Canyon. Every painting I ever did was the natural outcome of a quest both within myself and without. Every one of them springs from a pearl of direct experience. After almost 50 years of journeys, that string of pearls now resembles a necklace, and by definition, a life fully lived.”

Peter Nisbet’s extraordinary career and thoughtful perspective truly make him an artist of distinction.

Nisbet 2017

LIGHT, SPACE, AND POWER: THE ART OF P.A. NISBET
Special exhibit of the Quest for the West® Artist of Distinction
SEP 10–NOV 19
Gerald and Dorit Paul Gallery

 

 

TOP IMAGE CAPTION:

P.A. Nisbet
Beneath the Blue Moon Bench, 2012
Oil on linen, 30 x 42 inches
2012 Quest for the West Harrison Eiteljorg Purchase Award

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Storyteller Magazine.

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