Colorado painter Trenholm not averse to taking artistic license with her subject matter
FARMINGTON — When she was 4 years old, Lorraine W. Trenholm propped herself up on a fence on a relative's property in upstate New York, sat with a sketch pad on her lap and took her first crack at drawing a horse. She did just fine, she said, until it came time to draw the legs. By the time those appendages were added, the budding young artist's illustration had taken a decidedly unequine turn.
"I made the horse look like a piano," Trenholm said.
From that humble beginning, Trenholm — whose work is featured in the "Clouds, Canyons and Arroyos" exhibition opening Friday, Sept. 4 at the Henderson Fine Arts Gallery on the San Juan College campus — kept at it, honing her skills and eventually becoming an accomplished painter. Even so, she has acknowledged being conflicted about the pursuit that has dominated her life, describing it as "the most difficult and satisfying activity in which I have ever engaged."
Still, Trenholm, reached by phone last week near her home just east of Durango, Colo., said she turned a bit of a corner a few years ago when she changed her approach and finally stopped trying to faithfully reproduce the landscapes she was seeing before her. That breakthrough came while she was working on a painting based on a photograph she had taken, and realized the photo simply wasn't interesting enough and that, as she put it, "something else needed to happen."
So Trenholm turned her imagination loose in her work, sometimes adding additional color or shifting landscapes to create a more compelling image.
"Even when I'm painting plein-air, I'm not copying the landscape I'm seeing," she said.
The East Coast native — Trenholm was born in New York, attended the Pratt Institute as a painting major and spent many years living in Cape Cod, Mass., before relocating to Colorado in 2004 — doesn't view that change as any form of intellectual dishonesty. Indeed, she said that one of the basic truths that go along with being an artist is coming to the realization that "You never quite get there" in regard to achieving full satisfaction with the quality of your work, especially if you're intent on capturing an image in perfect detail.
"You get an image in your mind's eye," she said, describing the thought process with which many artists start. "But it doesn't quite come out the way you envisioned it. You have to accept that change. There's somebody else in there who creates this painting. It comes out the way it comes out. You have to have acceptance of what you create. And that's the way it is."
Trenholm said she fought that inclination when she was younger but has since learned to accept it.
"I finally realized that's part of art," she said. "Part of your brain keeps coming out — peekaboo!"
Trenholm's show at SJC represents the first time her work has been shown here, aside from the single painting of hers that was included in the "Gateway to Imagination" exhibition at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park earlier this year. But Trenholm is no stranger to New Mexico. Many of the landscapes depicted in "Clouds, Canyons and Arroyos" are taken from locations that are familiar to local residents, including the Glade Run Recreation Area.
"I can tell you ever since I came to the Southwest, I've been fascinated by canyons and arroyos, and how they're created," she said, explaining that she is intrigued by the interplay of configurations, shadows and colors between the three elements in the title of her exhibition. Glade Run has inspired her artistic imagination ever since she first explored it on an ATV a decade ago. One arroyo there has become her favorite, so much so that she created 12 paintings of it in 2004 alone.
But Trenholm has found other places in New Mexico she enjoys painting, as well. One of her favorite activities is to have her husband drive her south on U.S. 550 toward Bernalillo while she gazes out the passenger-side window, camera at the ready. Those excursions include frequent roadside stops at which Trenholm exits the vehicle and captures images of the deep path carved by the Rio Puerco near Cuba as it cuts under the highway.
"It's just amazing, and I love it," she said.
Come October, Trenholm plans to spend several days at Simon Canyon near Navajo Reservoir for another series to feed her apparently endless fascination for the flora and fauna of the Southwest.
"More arroyos, more canyons, more animals, more aspens ... even more lily pads," she said, laughing, remembering to tack her latest object of interest on to that list.
But even as she prepared for the opening of her show at SJC, Trenholm was already thinking ahead to another project that would take her in a different direction, though it would still be focused on objects that are highly familiar in northwest New Mexico. She has plans to produce an "industrial-themed" series of pastels that focuses on gas plants, electric transformer stations and even semi trucks.
"The sky's the limit," she said.
"Clouds, Canyons and Arroyos" will remain on display through Sept. 25.
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