Dale Latta has been painting for more than 20 years, but his art style has never stayed the same.
The Aztec, New Mexico-based artist will open his first show at the Olio restaurant and gallery in Mancos on Saturday, during the Mancos Old-Fashioned Christmas celebration. His paintings have slowly transformed over the years from cityscapes based on photographs to abstract collages, and that progression will be on display in the exhibit. Latta’s work will stay on the walls through Feb. 3.
For several years, Latta and his wife made regular trips to New York City so he could photograph moving crowds in the street and create impressionistic paintings based on the photos. Over time, they became more and more abstract, until they bore little resemblance to the original photographs.
Several of those paintings are included in the new exhibit, but Latta said he eventually ran out of inspiration to paint in that style. His newer paintings are a collection of small colored shapes, cut out of other canvases and glued into a collage to accentuate a larger abstract painting.
He said the idea for the new style came to him about a year ago after he started trying to make more geometric paintings in collaboration his wife, a textile artist. He didn’t like how the paintings themselves turned out, he said, but he did like the idea of cutting them up to become part of a new painting.
“I took a box cutter, and it was one of the most cathartic things I ever did in my life,” he said. “I just cut a piece out of the middle there, and ... it was kind of a mental leap, an epiphany.”
Many of his new collages started life as traditional abstract paintings. Latta said he never covers up their original titles on the back of the canvas, although he does write new ones. They are meant to show a “fusion” between the old and new, he said.
Latta’s art, in both styles, has been displayed in several galleries in New Mexico and Colorado, including the Durango Arts Center. He said he decided to show his work at Olio on the recommendation of fellow artist Patrice DeLorenzo, who showed art there in the past. It’s one of the few galleries in the Four Corners, he said, that regularly displays contemporary art.
Curator Rena Wilson said she seeks out artists like Latta for that very reason.
“There’s a million plein air painters, there’s a bunch of Western artists, but contemporary art – we really lack in this area,” she said. “I try to keep this place basically contemporary art, in all forms.”
Latta’s artist reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. and is open to the public. The art show is free, but prices at the Olio restaurant vary.