Jackson hole artist September Vhay is an impressive talent in animal art. She has recently won a first place award in the painting category of The Ex Arte Equinus International Competition, has been chosen by Southwest Art to be in the ‘21 over 31 artists with careers to watch’ and also won the Trustee’s Purchase Award at the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Miniatures Exhibit. She has shown her work at prestigious national shows such as ‘Birds in Art®’, The Coors Exhibit, Cowgirl Up, the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Western Visions Exhibit, The American Academy of Equine Art, The Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and The American Watercolor Society. She has also won numerous awards in the last five Ex Arte Equinus International Equine Art Competitions.
Her work is classic in subject matter and technique and at the same time modern in her composition and minimal approach. Backgrounds drop away so that her muted earthen palette can evoke the very essence of an animal. Her paintings are realistic in form and detail, yet they possess an impressionistic aura as well, a looseness that adds a sensitive dimension. Speaking about her work, Vhay says, “My challenge and subsequent reward is to reorder reality by distilling it to its essence. It is in this essence where the truth of subject lies. Beauty resides in this truth. It is a pleasure to seek out this essence and to share it with others.” A largely self-taught artist, Vhay’s formal training is in architecture. She received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Oregon in 1991. She subsequently moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she worked as an architect for eight years and painted in her spare time. Her understanding of structure, composition, and light—so crucial in architecture—give her paintings a sense of three-dimensional form.
In addition to architecture, she was influenced by the work of her great-grandfather Guzton Borglum, who is famous for sculpting Mount Rushmore and other prominent national monuments. It was his, comparatively, smaller-scale work that Vhay most admired. Initially Vhay worked exclusively in watercolor influenced by professors from the Royal Academy of Copenhagen, where she studied architecture in 1991. In 1992, she was awarded the Rosenberg Traveling Scholarship, which allowed her to travel to Scotland to study and paint the buildings of famous watercolor painter and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Vhay says, “Watercolor painting is spontaneous and unpredictable. There is always an element of risk as alterations are difficult if not impossible to make. These aspects make it a challenging, yet exciting medium. It is a balance of careful planning, jumping in, and then knowing when to let go.”
characteristics of light
Now devoted full-time to painting, Vhay has expanded her media to include oils. Because of her skill with watercolor, she seamlessly achieves the freshness of watercolor with the saturation of color only possible in oils. One of her mentors, the award-winning painter Scott Christensen says, “September really gets the subtle transitions and separations of warm and cool colors, and how they merge. She understands the characteristics of light.”
September is currently showing her original work at ALTAMIRA FINE ART in Jackson, Wyoming, ALTAMIRA FINE ART in Scottsdale, and at the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.