At age 99, Richard Mayhew still painting ‘Inner Terrains’

Posted on September 8, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

“I paint more from the inside out,” says artist Richard Mayhew, who expresses “a sensitivity to nature while living the experience of the painting.” 

Mayhew, now 99, works with vibrant colors, including shades of red and burnt earth pigments that suggest, the artist has said, “blood in the soil.” His works are abstract, explosive, surreal. 

The invented landscapes, said a recent New York Times feature, are “in an increasingly unnatural, sometimes acid palette that can sting and soothe the eye in equal measure.”

The solo exhibition Richard Mayhew: Inner Terrain opens September 16 at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. 

In 1963, Mayhew had already embarked on a continuous search for an imaginative mindset when he joined Spiral, an influential group of Black artists in New York City.

Mayhew’s work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has also been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

His teaching career includes stints at the Brooklyn Museum, Sonoma State University, and Pennsylvania State University, where he retired as professor emeritus in 1991.

As he approaches his centennial birthday, he remains an active painter developing an inventive mind and continuing to improvise his techniques. His works comprise a dedicated room at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and a Manhattan galley show just closed in June.

The Sonoma show is curated by Mayhew himself, along with Shelby Graham and the artist Kajahl. The three will speak at a special event on Sunday, September 24. 

“I met Richard Mayhew when I was beginning my artistic journey, and his mentorship and guidance were instrumental,” says Kajahl, who also lives in Santa Cruz. “He suggested that I study abroad and that I move to New York City, both of which opened up my artistic opportunities. Richard also challenged me to push the boundaries of traditional art forms, and to do so by exploring and trusting my creative inner sensibility.”

An Exhibition Reception will be held on Saturday September 23, 5-7pm.

The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art is located at 551 Broadway. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm. General admission is $10, free for SVMA members and 18 and under. Wednesday is always free.

Photo of Richard Mayhew by Shelby Graham

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