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 Hazel Monzingo  (1940 - )

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Lived/Active: Colorado      Known for: western landscape, animal portrait, and still life painting

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The Farmers Horses, pastel, 18" x 24", 1995
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Hazel Mozingo (1940-)

Known for her western landscapes, animal portraits (particularly horses) and still life images, created with pastels on paper in a difficult-to-define style resembling romantic realism – or in her words – expressionistic naturalism. Her landscapes, for example, seem to invite the observer, and that invitation often triggers a familiarity or longing, and a sudden response wells up from within that says: “Yes, I was there.”

If it isn’t familiar, then certainly Monzingo’s art can stimulate a desire to know more, to see more, fusing an instant and intimate bond between subject and viewer. Her creative ability moves beyond objective reality while at the same time inserting an atmosphere that reaches out to the mind’s eye. The observer may sense additional elements other than what’s depicted in her compositions, where that something extra is suggested or implied, allowing further exploration on a deeper level.

When taken as a whole, one senses a laid-back maturity in Monzingo’s subjects, and yet she reveals a tension in her compositions that she exploits with delicate compassion.  Her depictions of workhorses are often seen eagerly pulling as a team; a lone tree on a hillside may struggle to survive in a harsh environment; a rock in mid stream exposed to constant turbulence remains solidly fixed in place; the erosive power of wind and water is on display as it carves out deep, red-rock canyons; or an arroyo is seen inflicting scars upon a desert-floor landscape.  All allegorical subjects perhaps, but her focus remains important nonetheless as she expresses her artistry through a narrative about the natural forces that surrounds us.

In a recent interview, Monzingo answered a question about her choice of pastel as a favored medium, saying that she takes her art quite seriously, and offered to assist the visitor in better understanding her style.

“I take an expressionistic approach, and not a photographic one,” she explained. “As soon as I found the medium of pastel it set me free – no more confinement. Oil (painting) has its form and conventions, but with pastels you can see it and immediately create what you see. With pastels you really have time to see what you’re looking at, and I can then translate that to paper.”

She emphasized that each piece starts in the abstract, to balance the shapes and values.  At this stage she then decides whether to complete the image by adding realistic details. “The heart of the artist is manifested on paper,” she said, adding, “An artist’s painting is a conversation in art form rather than with words.”

Monzingo lives in Austin, Colorado, and works exclusively in pastels.  Most of the scenes she paints are of landscapes found in western Colorado, the heart of the Rocky Mountains.  She has an attachment to her paintings and thinks of them as her family and friends. One of her pastels, called Memories, is a picture of her grandparents on their wedding day. Two years later her grandmother was widowed when her husband was killed in an accident. When Monzingo made a painting of the wedding photo, she added the scene of her grandmother’s lamp, some Chinese dinnerware and a love letter.

A traditional painter, Monzingo captures the local scenery around her home.  From her backyard she has spectacular views of the San Juan Mountains to the south, the Grand Mesa to the north, and Mt. Lamborn and the West Elk Mountains to the east.  Here she can set up her easel in the upright position “and slightly tilted forward” to facilitate the application of the pastel sticks.

She said the particular paper she uses has a rough texture with a tooth that traps the medium in the dips and valleys of the surface; while the color of the paper is generally fixed, it adds to the overall effect.  Pastel sticks of various colors are used to make a painting, Monzingo explained, and oftentimes one color is overlaid on another to create a certain effect, shading or value.

Monzingo’s confidence is not only reflected in her finished compositions, but the creative transference starts immediately whenever she touches a coloring stick to the textured surface.

“I can paint anything, but it’s more of a challenge to paint in pastel because I heard it was a difficult medium.  In oils you can mix the problem away (with color).  But in pastels it makes you think and it draws you out, simply because it’s difficult.”

Hazel Monzingo was born in 1940 in the rural environment of Spanish Fork, Utah, taking care of the animals on her family’s farm.  By the age of nine she was already drawing pictures of horses and other animals, and submitted several pencil sketches to the Utah Farmer Magazine.  They not only accepted her drawings, but also paid her a dollar for every one of the equine sketches they published. While in high school she continued to draw and won several countywide awards for young artists two years in a row.

After graduation from high school, Monzingo married, raised a family, and lived and worked in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, all the while drawing and painting in both watercolor and oils the scenes of the rural ranch life around her.  She got her first set of pastels while living in Texas, but Monzingo explained she never used them much until she returned to a ranch in New Mexico.  It was here that she started to take her art more seriously.  Although she had to drive 90 miles to get to art class, Monzingo began taking lessons from noted oil painter Don Ray.  She soon discovered, however, that wet oil on canvas didn’t mix well with the dusty roads, and she switched from oils to pastels full time.

Monzingo moved back to Colorado permanently which she said made a big difference in her life.  She left ranching and farming behind and started taking art classes at Mesa State College in Grand Junction with Charles Hardy, becoming more familiar with pastels as a creative medium.  At this time she also worked with Tom Stubbs, and also observed the compositional arrangements illustrated by Daniel Sprick.  Monzingo also took workshops from other noted artists such as Lorenzo Chavez, Albert Handell, Duane Wakeham and others.  She also began expanding her subject matter by including landscapes, still life and portraits.  Eventually she felt comfortable enough with the medium to enter local exhibitions, and success soon followed, encouraging her to enter her work on a national level as well.

In the 1990s, Monzingo joined forces with another artist to form a statewide pastel society. Today there are over 200 members of the Pastel Society of Colorado from around the state and the U.S.  She has served as the group’s vice president and editor of their newsletter. Monzingo is a signature member of four national pastel organizations: the Northwest Pastel Society, the Pastel Society of New Mexico, the Pastel Society of the West Coast and the Pastel Society of Colorado.  Monzingo’s first accepted national show was at the Salmagundi All Media Show in New York City.

As previously mentioned, she is a standing member of several pastel societies and has been accepted to exhibit her work throughout the U.S. as a juried pastel artist.  Successfully achieving a signature membership in any of these societies can be quite difficult, Monzingo said.  The Pastel Society of New Mexico, for example, requires members to first accumulate a number of points, where 12 points ensures membership.  Points are awarded based on how the artist finished placing in any given exhibition or show, where five points are given for first place, four points for second, and so on.

Today Monzingo paints animals, people or landscapes on commission.  One commission she completed recently was of a large landscape for the Grafton School in Utah.  Although she doesn’t do demos, Monzingo does on occasion give private lessons.

Throughout, she has completed a number of commissions and sold her work around the United States and Ireland. Her pastels can be found in corporate holdings as well as many private collections.

Monzingo conducted a workshop recently with artists George Collision and Dan Logé at the Art Center in Grand Junction, CO. where they answered questions about pastel painting and the various mediums used to express the artist’s vision. Afterwards, they did brief critiques of the participant’s works. Monzingo’s work is well represented by the Creamery Art Center in Hotchkiss, CO.

Artist’s Statement: “I live in a region with views so glorious I feel compelled to paint them so I can share them with others. The pastel medium is perfect for me because of its immediacy in capturing the moment, and the beauty of the scene.  . . . You are so alone when you create, yet creativity is a spiritual thing for me.”

Sources:
The International Artist, Oct.-Nov. 2004 issue; The Creamery Art Center of Hotchkiss, Co. newsletter and Web page; from correspondence written by the artist; personal interview with the artist, Dec. 2009.

Information provided by  Ron Kop, art collector, writer, and acquaintance of the artist.

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