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Merrill Mahaffey American b. 1937

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Merrill Mahaffey

  • Born 1937

Merrill Mahaffey is a noted Southwestern landscape artist who paints the open, unpopulated, and rugged landscapes of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. His imagery ranges from postcard-type views of mountains and canyons, to more abstracted studies of jumbled rock slides, to simple but elegant recordings of major public works like Hoover Dam.

His characteristic high-key palette consists of yellows, tans, pinks, and whites, with pale purple and blue shadows. He spends much of his energy on the rhythmic patterns in the colored rock walls, and in the reflections of bodies of water, usually tamed rivers. Born in Albuquerque, Merrill Mahaffey grew up in Colorado. He completed his formal art education in California and Arizona, receiving his BFA from Sacramento State and MFA from Arizona State University.

During his time at Sacramento State, Mahaffey was counseled by a slightly older artist to go to the Bay Area if he wanted to be a serious painter. After a year in the cutting-edge environment of the Bay Area, Mahaffey returned to Sacramento State and made periodic museum and gallery excursions back to San Francisco. Mahaffey considers this period and these places the source for his philosophy as a painter. Later as an art teacher at Phoenix College, Mahaffey defined the goal of his first sabbatical succinctly: “I will learn how to draw.” Disciplined study and practice of penmanship, straight lines, circles, and the representation of three dimensions on the two-dimensional plane during this phase gave him the mastery to merge realism with his modernist spirit. “Why not do real paintings of real places with these new skills?” he asked.

Now, some four decades later, a partial listing of Mahaffey’s institutional collectors includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Art, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center , the Denver Art Museum , the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. His corporate collector’s include companies like Exxon, Phillips Petroleum and Phelp’s Dodge.

Mahaffey’s oeuvre is a link between aesthetic and environmental concerns. He bridges realism with fractal modernism in an ever-evolving style that reflects the highest standards of craftsmanship, exploration and invention. The viewer in search of beauty, intelligence, relevance and originality in both concept and technique will find it all and more in Merrill Mahaffey’s vision.

Phoenix Home and Garden: Revealing Nature