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The Visionary Paintings of Gwen Cates

The Visionary Paintings of Gwen Cates
Photo Courtesy: Amber Sibley

By: Michael Beas – Atlas Elite Publishing

Gwen Cates is a contemporary American artist who focuses on colorful East and West Coast landscapes and figurative works. A fearless and prolific painter, Gwen Cates began her career at Virginia Commonwealth University and Hollins University. For over half a century, she has exhibited across international stages in Britain, Italy, and the United States. Looking at her extensive body of work, Gwen Cates’ art and life interweave as one artful conversation. Gwen describes herself as a contemporary colorist.

Gwen Cates says, “I was discovered by my first-grade teacher and never looked back. Visitors to my gallery often look across the fields and tell me they had never noticed so many colors in the landscape before.” 

Recently, Gwen Cates has captured the grandeur of Monument Valley with a series of oil on canvas landscapes she has entitled “Artistic Visions of the Majestic Monument Valley.” In the colorful series, Cates artfully explores the spiritual and natural wonders of Arizona while maintaining her signature vibrancy and flair. Her visual narratives assures a captivating journey through spiritual and natural wonders. The exhibit was inspired by the late Larry Holiday, an esteemed member of the Navajo community who suggested that Gwen Cates paint Monument Valley. The paintings are magnificent to view in person but can also be appreciated digitally.

“Artistic Visions of the Majestic Monument Valley” 

is a one day in person exhibit which will be held at the 

Trove Gallery in Park City, Utah on May 31, 2024. 

The exhibit then shifts to an online gallery and sales page

which can be enjoyed globally: www.gwencatesgallery.com

Gwen Cates says, “Each of my solo exhibits over the years has had a different theme, and each time my goal has been to express what I have seen in the living landscape or sense in the world around me. Some of my paintings explore deep-seated archetypal images drawn from earlier imaginings, figurative paintings, research, and dreams.  I paint to transform these concepts through vibrant color and strong compositions. My goal is to create powerful and imaginative paintings. I use acrylic paint and mediums to create layers and embed gold leaf, algae from oak trees, butterflies, and other natural materials in my work.” 

In a recent solo art exhibit in downtown Los Angeles, “Cosmic Adventures,” the abstract series of paintings took us on a journey between worlds. The art of Gwen Cates invited the viewer to leap into other dimensions and explore a mytho-poetic adventure. Traveling deeply into her subconscious and the world of dreams, Gwen Cates reveals fantasies from her imagination. She creates archetypal images and incorporates winged figures, horses, and other animals into her compositions. Swatches of fabric, lace, gold leaf and lichen from oak trees are some of the elements that are included in the paintings. From black holes, to new stars, nature collages and horses jumping through astral planes of existence, Gwen Cates never fails to astonish!

Gwen Cates says, “At this point in my career, I have shown my paintings in many solo and shared exhibits around the United States and in Britain. Each solo exhibit has offered a unique challenge, not only from a creative perspective but also a logistic one. I am reminded of an exhibit in London when I had to roll up each painting and ship them in cardboard tubes, reassemble them and then my daughter drove her horse van into Earl’s Court in the city center. Luckily the effort was worth it, because the metaphysical art show at Edith Grove Gallery was a great success, with all the paintings selling to a curious, rather royal and enthusiastic audience. There was nothing to take home but new friendships and a smile.”

Gwen Cates currently lives on Whiskey Ridge Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia where she works in her art studio. The Rivanna River borders a portion of the farm. In good weather, Gwen takes her French easel and oil paints down to the river to do plein air paintings. She also rides her horse into the river and works from photos offering that unique perspective of being in the water.

Gwen Cates has an ongoing exhibit in Charlottesville, Virginia featuring her “Seasonal Reflections on the Rivanna River.” This series of paintings emerged after living beside the Rivanna River and watching the river through all four seasons over a seven-year period. This exhibit is a mixture of landscape (or river-scapes) that begins with paintings of vibrant spring rivers full of new life, leading to a lazy summer river, colorful autumn paintings, and then the stillness of snow on the riverbanks. The viewers follow the paintings sunwise from the spring paintings to winter paintings. Just like memories, the paintings could be viewed in reverse also. The idea is to become increasingly aware of our imaginative “innerscapes” as we view work and become inspired to create the art, poetry, and music that lives within us. They can be viewed on her larger retrospective website.

The Rivanna River series begins with paintings depicting the emerging new life of spring. The spring paintings are brightly colored and swirling with activity, as is demonstrated in Cates’ oil on canvas “Springtime on the Rivanna River.” The summer paintings are of a lazy river filled with reflections of the busy life that takes place around the waterway. Gwen Cates enjoys riding her horse Cherokee through the river. The first oil on canvas painting in the summer series is “September Ride Up A Lazy River” in which a multicolored river is seen through the ears of a horse. “Autumn Wander on the Rivanna” takes us into the change of seasons with vibrant orange and golden leaves reflected in the blue water. “Snowbanks of the Rivanna River” echoes the stillness of winter. 

Gwen Cates’ talent and diligence places her in an esteemed position amongst female artists of the 21st Century. She has made her mark amongst American painters and is an artist all connoisseurs of fine art and art collectors should know about.



Published by: Khy Talara

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