The Fine Art of Ed Mell


The innovative paintings and sculptures of Phoenix artist Ed Mell portray the majestic panoramas of the desert Southwest and the intricate nuances of its flora and fauna through fragmented studies in the contrast of light and dark, and color and hue. His modernist approach recalls Cubist principles of space, while his infusion of luminous color elicits a surreal sense of other-worldliness embodied by the desert. Like the distilled Western vistas of noted artist Maynard Dixon, Mell often abstracts his images of nature to intensify a scene.

Mell reduces visual phenomena into stylized shapes, color gradations, and contrasting tones of color to capture the ephemeral moments of the environment. Rather than a photographic representation of nature, Mell brings out dramatic juxtapositions to reveal what he describes as “the impact that nature has in real life.” Recently, he has worked en plein air near the Capital Reef National Monument in southern Utah, forgoing his traditional reliance on photographs as sketches for final paintings. The immediacy of the visual experience allows the artist to react in a more direct manner, while still retaining his signature sense of space and color.

Decidedly western in theme and expression, Ed Mell’s name is synonymous with the desert southwest. His luminous canvases of striated clouds stretched over distant mesas have become his stock-in-trade, earning his trademark incandescent sunsets the euphemism, “Ed Mell Sky.” Early recognition and success as a landscape painter allowed the artist to explore new subject matter such as stunning representations of desert flowers, long horn cattle, bucking broncos, and cowboys – to name a few. Primarily interested in bringing emotion to a painting, Mell approaches the landscape from two perspectives: expressive realism and abstraction. When he works in a realist style, Mell pictures the scene as if his canvases are windows to the vistas in front of him, which result in serene tributes to nature in the classical tradition of painting as illusion. When he approaches the landscape from an abstract point of view, he suggests land forms and cloud formations with lines and planes alive with restless energy and sublime theatrics. Ultimately, Mell’s paintings are intuitive celebrations of color and space that exalt in the macrocosm and the microcosm of the grandeur that is the West.

Tucson Museum of Art Ed Mell: Paintings of the New West