Janet Lippincott

Karan Ruhlen Gallery, Santa Fe

Modernist painter Janet Lippincott, who spent most of her career in Santa Fe, died on Wednesday, May 2. Born in New York City in 1918, Lippincott had a privileged childhood and lived for a time in Paris. Showing an early talent for art, she studied as a teenager at the New York Art Students League.

During World War II, Lippincott enlisted in the Women's Army Corps and afterward used the GI Bill to further her studies. She ventured out West in 1949 to study with Emil Bisttram at the Taos Art School. Bisttram told her flat out that she didn't have what it took to be an artist, and she spent the next half a century proving him wrong.

She studied briefly at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School, where she worked with Mary Chenoweth, then went on to a stint at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1954 she moved to Santa Fe, where she remained the rest of her life. Over the years, her work was frequently exhibited not only in New Mexico, but throughout the West, including Colorado. Her last Denver solo was presented about a decade ago at the long-closed Inkfish Gallery.

Though her style — as seen in "Landscape & Sculpture" (pictured) — can be easily labeled as abstract-expressionist, she also did more hard-to-define pieces, including Picassoid figure studies of women and organic abstractions of biomorphic shapes.

Lippincott is currently part of a show, The Second Wave: New Mexico Modernists after WWII, at the Karan Ruhlen Gallery in Santa Fe, her longtime representative. In this exhibit, which runs through June 1, Lippincott's work is seen in the context of other modernists who were working in New Mexico at the same time, including William Lumpkins, Beatrice Mandelman and Earl Stroh. A Lippincott memorial is planned for June 10 at 2 p.m. at Santa Fe's St. Francis Auditorium.

Lippincott had a stellar career from the '50s through the '70s and, after a slump in appreciation, hit something of a revival during the last decade thanks to curators' and historians' increasing interest in abstraction in the West. Now that she's gone, I predict that her presence in the exhibition world nationally is only going to get stronger.

 
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