Lance Mumma hasnt lived in Durango for quite some time, but hes leaving a legacy through his art that ensures hell always be a local.
The Colorado Springs resident is back in the town of his birth for a one-man show tonight at Toh-Atin Gallery. Owner Jackson Clark is Mummas exclusive representative in Durango, but this year he gave the artist a career boost reserved for a chosen few by selecting Mumma as the official artist of Music in the Mountains. Mummas painting San Juan Wildflowers graces the cover of the MITM program, and the original was auctioned off at Wednesdays Pops Night benefit for more than $5,000 with all proceeds going to the festival.
Jackson and Mary Jane (Clark, Jacksons mother), each year they choose the artist and the piece of art, and they donate it to us. Sometimes theres input from board members, but its their thing, and they always make a fabulous choice, said MITM executive director Susan Lander.
San Juan Wildflowers may be off the block, but Mumma arrived earlier this week with 14 brand-new paintings to augment the collection already at Toh-Atin. His work reflects his life: a collection of landscapes in oil painted throughout the Four Corners, most of them since he turned 40.
Despite a lifelong love of art, at 44, Mumma is a late bloomer. His father worked for the U.S. Forest Service, and though he was born in Durango, the family moved about every nine months, and Mumma graduated from Farmington High School before enrolling at New Mexico State University on an engineering scholarship.
I always drew things, and I learned painting from my grandmother when I was about 9, Mumma said.
I was in the mountains from as early I can remember, riding horseback and camping those kinds of experiences he said.
By far, almost all of my work is the Rocky Mountain West I like deserts, plateaus, rivers the whole landscape is inspiring. I tried to move away once, got as far as Dallas and lasted 18 months before I moved back and convinced Mom to support me for five years while I tried to make it as an artist.
His experience at NMSU fed both his professions; he now works at an aerospace firm near Colorado Springs, but its also where he met the late Wilson Hurley, the famous painter whose work most likely is seen by Durangoans in the Great Hall at the Albuquerque International Skyport. Hurley introduced Mumma to the world of plein-air painting, which in those days (1986) was known as field studies.
I sent him some slides, he critiqued them and didnt hold anything back, Mumma said.
He said get out there photos distort colors paint with your eyes, so I did. My first attempt I was attacked by bugs, the easel blew over I call that combat painting. But I brought it back to the studio to work out the composition. Light and color are the two things that inspire me the most, and thats what I try to capture and express. That started a 25-year relationship with Wilson, and I was very fortunate.
As so often is the case, life got in the way of Mummas dream to be an artist, and during the 1990s he was forced to abandon his art to raise a family. That included the adoption of a daughter with special needs, and it required all of his personal and professional resources to make ends meet.
I got into the Savage Gallery in Santa Fe in about 1987, and I was selling everything I could paint, he said.
But I take too long Im not as prolific as I should be and wasnt making enough to survive, so I put it on the shelf for a while. Then things turned around, and I picked it up again about four years ago. My dad took some paintings to Toh-Atin and Jackson knew my work from the 80s, and I started showing again.
Hes still working as a computer engineer, and after 13 years in Colorado Springs he may finally have found some permanent roots, but with the help of gallery owners such as Clark, it appears Mummas art career is back on track.
We started handling his work and have been blown away by the incredible pieces he does, Clark said.
In my mind, hes a better artist today, not because his technique is any better, but I think his age and experience allow him to see the world differently.