LOCAL ARTS GALLERY GUIDE
Orange County, CA 2014
Laguna Canyon artist FITZ Maurice, a New York native and former winner of the prestigious Jackson Pollock award has kept herself monumentally involved in her painting these days. Maurice, whose unique and colorful style distinguishes her, has been traversing the Nation’s National Parks, capturing the light, color, texture and grandeur of these geological treasures. With over a 1000 career paintings to her credit, her National Park Series, aptly titled “Quest,’ captures vistas not normally seen by the everyday park visitor. Maurice has routinely hiked for hours, or rafted her way to precariously breathtaking vantage points to paint ‘live’ and on location. See the results of these treks reflected in her striking work on display in her Laguna Canyon Studio.
Jackson Pollock Award Winner
FITZ Maurice and the Magic of her National Park Paintings Series
By SUZIE HARRISON ~ Suzie’s ARTiculation ~
Whether capturing the vibrantly rich colors of the screaming orange and yellow ocher pinnacles capped with fresh scintillating snow in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, or the formidable regal and glorious presence of Mount Rainier National Park, using red and blue purples to honor its noble presence, FITZ Maurice’s National Park Paintings series takes the viewer to these parks, bestowing awe-inspiring wonder with such enduring affect.
FITZ’s Story, in Her Own Words
“It started in the year 2002, the year I moved to New Mexico, where I had an enormous connection with the wild, raw spirit of New Mexico. It was very unexpected. And then the next thing I know, I am living 7000 feet up, alone, on top of a mountain. Where there’s four seasons, including full on winter and snow. I didn’t have a cell phone. I didn’t have television. I didn’t have Internet. And for three years, I painted and got very deeply rooted in nature. When I was out there, [I realized] New Mexico had phenomenal national parks. One was only 10 minutes from my mountaintop, El Morro National Park, and I painted that. Then I visited friends in Zion and captured Zion National Park.
It’s the most natural subject matter for any creative spirit is to be immersed in the monumental beauty that is indicative of our national parks. You get really deep into peace and serenity. And the more I enjoyed being in the national parks, all of a sudden; I had painted six or seven of them. I went, wow, I am painting the national parks. It was just a continuation of where my soul was leading me to.”
“My goal is to reveal the wonders and the essence that are really individual personalities of each park. And look what’s happening, each one of my paintings is very different than the others, which reflects how different the parks are when you’re in them. I spend weeks in each park. The first thing I do is hike or swim, kayak or horseback ride, or at Mount Rainier I took the tram up to really discover the ultimate point of view that’s going to show the viewer, YAH, I want to go there. Oh, that’s what Crater Lake is about, or the redwoods, I have to go there and look up at the tallest trees in the world. The reason I titled my National Redwood Park painting, “Idyllic,” is that you feel like a child walking around in a storybook.
I am a landscape artist, yes. I paint out in the national parks in plein air, and I get the whole painting up, the whole composition, and the sense of color. What I am really going for is to highlight the energy, the personality of the park, and then I like to bring it back to the studio and put all the finishing paint strokes, little magic brushstrokes that will pull the whole painting together, and I sign it. One of the things that is really challenging is that these paintings are 12’ x 16” or 16” x 12,” so I can manage them while I am hiking around, climbing up mountain tops, getting to tops of buttes, carrying my portable easel, and paints, and this panel canvas. So they have to be manageable to go with me and come back.
It’s a challenge to capture the whole Grand Canyon in 12 inches. It’s a challenge to to capture Crater Lake. How do you get that whole lake into 12 inches to give the viewer that impact that it’s a massive lake that radiates and vibrates with color depending on the time of year? It’s a mirror of color, a prism of color. It’s like being in a sacred place the minute you’re there. The whole captivating feeling of being there is how the lake reflects sky, and the sky and the lake are one.”
“Sleeping Dragon,” Mount Rainier National Park, Wash.” / Oil Painting / 12” x 16”
“A photograph can’t show the emotions, passion, secrets and mysteries that are all tucked into each one of my park paintings.
So after pursuing the National Parks for five years now, I realize what a great gift it is to have all the National Parks available to us. And all of us can go there, photograph, paint, write, and wake up in joy and remember who we are in the inside again. It’s right outside in your reach. Just find a way to be there and find the oneness of all, and that’s the joy of life.”
Now in 2017, I am going to be flying to the parks that are further away. So it’s the next half of the Quest is to go out and reach and capture the far away parks and bring them back. I am going to Hawaii later this month to paint two national parks, Haleakala National Park in Maui and Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. So from the mountains to the lakes to the valleys, I go and they cast their spells on me, and I paint them. I am loving the whole Quest. It’s fantastic.”
“Bristlecone Pine,” Great Basin National Park, Nevada” / Oil Painting / 12” x 16”
In turn, FITZ’s National Park Paintings series casts a spell on the viewer that’s unbelievably mesmerizing. That’s the magic of FITZ.
FITZ’s National Park Paintings series will be on exhibit at the Hockaday Museum in Kalispell, Montana, June and July 2018.
For now, you can get absorbed in her incredible National Park Paintings series at www.nationalparkpaintings.com.
Until next time…so many powerful National Park paintings, so little time!
Laguna Beach Magazine, April 29, 2016
written by Richard Chang
She calls it the “Quest.” Local artist FITZ Maurice is on a mission to paint in every one of the country’s 59 national parks and capture the essence of each on canvas. She started in March 2012—committing to the venture full time on May 1, 2015—and so far, she’s painted more than 20.
“The whole reason I set out … to capture the national parks is because they’re such a phenomenal inspiration,” she says, noting that her paintings are on exhibition at Woods Cove Art Gallery, as well as Main Beach Fine Art. “I will ride horses, I will hike miles, I have kayaked my way there. … Whatever it takes, I’ll get there.”
A Laguna Beach resident for more than 25 years, FITZ has shown at museums, galleries and special exhibitions around the world, winning the Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner New York award from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation in 2001. Until recently, she worked out of a space at Laguna Canyon Artists’ Studios. “Now my studio is the parks,” she quips.
To date, FITZ has visited Mount Rainier, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon national parks, among others. This year, she wants to travel to Alaska, which contains eight national parks, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, founded in 1916. She’s seeking corporate sponsorship to help defray the costs.
The message in her paintings is to enjoy nature. “Drink your coffee outside, have lunch outside, get your kids to play outside,” FITZ says. “It’s important. People aren’t outside anymore, and there are so many gorgeous places to be. If you really embrace nature, it is so satisfying that you lose that constant nagging hunger to buy more stuff.”
Plein Air Today Magazine, May 2015
Visting All National Parks "To Preserve and Protect"
written by Bob Bahr
FITZ Maurice made it personal. Many people love our national parks, but she is visiting all 59, because she wants to make sure she is doing all she can to keep them in people's hearts and minds.
Maurice started her mission three years ago, but she felt her progress was too slow. So on May 1, she escalated. Now the Laguna Beach painter is on the road nonstop until she visits them all.
The hardest part? Saying goodbye to home. "The tribe never likes it when one leaves the tribe and goes on a journey," says Maurice, explaining that her friends and family were sad to see her go. "It's hard to push off and leave home. I had to close the home studio and leave all the comforts and all I know. It takes courage to do that. My family and friends, and collectors, were all excited and supportive of the quest. They realized that when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. But I don't know when I'll be back. I don't know how long it will take."
Maurice has a nest egg, and she will undoubtedly sell pieces along the way, but she hopes to attract a sponsorship from a company or two. "I'm still doing this quest on my own nickel," she says. "The expense for gas is a big deal. I hope some eco-conscious sports equipment company or something similar would like to support or sponsor me. It would make sense."
She says she was motivated to paint all 59 national parks by both their beauty and their eternally vulnerable status. "The parks tend to be under siege all the time by individuals with their own designs on how they can capitalize on the resources there," says Maurice. "There are always developers wanting to do something on park land, and politicians ready to disarm the protections in place. Right now there are two bills in the Senate that would put national parks at risk. I hope to keep the parks in the forefront of everyone's mind, and remind them that these places are irreplaceable. Open spaces are disappearing all the time." She sees herself as part of a tradition, one that has artists informing national leaders about the importance of wild spaces. "It's the artists who sound the alarm and get the general public and the leaders to understand the concerns of the moment. That goes back to John Muir, and Theodore Roosevelt," Maurice says. "We can give the wakeup call and get people to urge their leaders to gather people with means to support and protect beautiful places like national parks."
Maurice has visited Bryce Canyon, and next on her list are Canyonlands and Arches national parks. She says she is already feeling like she's the healthiest she's looked and felt since, well, ever. Dozens of people have heard about her journey and e-mailed encouragement, saying they plan to live vicariously through her in the coming months. Maurice will be blogging about her trip on her website.
"It's quite a journey, but I love being in the parks and it's all working out," says the artist. "So many do want to set out and do something similar, but untying all the knots and breaking the chains is a lot to accomplish, while remaining confident that what you are going to accomplish is worth doing enough to leave all that. But this is one of the greatest quests I've been on. I'm so passionate about doing everything I can to preserve and protect national parks."
South Coast Magazine, Winter 2014
Born to paint, FITZ Maurice has been an artist all her life. Supporting herself as a professional artist for over 25 years, she was the winner of The New York Jackson Pollock Foundation Award in 2001. She has exhibited in many renowned International, Juried exhibitions, and art galleries throughout Europe and the United States.
She is already on an incredibly exciting “Quest” to paint “live” in the Great National Parks of America. She will travel to and explore each National Park searching for the Ultimate Scene, then create an original oil painting. “When I am immersed in the surroundings of that particular park, I can breathe in its unique air, light, fragrance—all the elements that will give the painting its extraordinary life.”
She is extremely thankful that America had leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and artist Ansel Adams who had the insight and wisdom to preserve and protect National Parks for all generations. FITZ has loved to travel for many years and be inspired by these monuments of beauty that inspire artists of all kinds, provide golden memories for families, and give everyone a sense of national pride knowing they are available. National Parks are every American’s Birthright!
“I have loved how many people have responded and encouraged my ‘Quest’ to paint ‘live’ in the National Parks! They are all telling me how important and timely it is to support the preservation of these irreplaceable landscapes. I want to be an advocate as an artist and as an American, helping to promote and protect these precious and vulnerable national treasures.”
For many years, FITZ has painted passionately in over 15 National Parks. That experience has evolved into her commitment to capture the uniqueness of each park. You can see for yourself the painting, “MOUNT ZION”, which she created in Zion National Park, Utah. Another vibrant oil painting created in Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico is titled, “ENCHANTED”. There are original paintings like “SOURCE” inspired by Wyoming’s incredible Grand Teton National Park.
Now, there are 2 finished Oil Paintings that are part of the new NATIONAL PARK SERIES “QUEST: SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA” and “SERENE-BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT, N.M.”
Just last month FITZ traveled to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. “The majestic waterfalls were so refreshing after hiking through the steep, sun splattered woods. Waterfall oil paintings are actively in progress! These and future paintings will be part of the National Park Series. This autumn, I plan to go to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and capture that awesome natural wonder.”
FITZ has favorite National Parks for different reasons. “The Grand Canyon is an all time favorite because I love rafting the wild Colorado River and camping on the beach. The dramatic drop down to the basin should be your first warning not to hike down and back up the same day, like some of us found out the hard way! Personally, I love Sequoia National Forest because it is an easy road trip and I get to swim in the fresh mountain water of Hulme Lake everyday. I can’t wait to return to Yellowstone National Park and I am elated to know that there are so many National Parks that are extraordinary in their own captivating way. That keeps me focused on the ‘Quest; to capture each park’s unique essence.”
FITZ has travelled extensively, painting in different countries around the world. Her paintings were chosen to represent the United States in The Florence Biennale, Italy and The Paris, France Triennial International Juried Exhibition. She also has a reputation for creating symbols that encourage world peace. Her painting, “THE WAR OF HUMAN RIGHTS”, was exhibited at the United Nations World Conference in Vienna and has travelled the world as the symbol of human rights. In 2009, New York Mayor Bloomberg honored FITZ as an Internationally acclaimed artist, and congratulated her with The Unisphere Award for creating the TOLERANCE Symbol. Recently, she spent months creating a 12 foot mural “TRIUMPH” which I donated to the 9/11 2011 Tribute celebration in New York.
“When I am immersed in the surroundings of that particular park, I can breathe in its unique air, light, fragrance—all the elements that will give the painting its extraordinary life.”
Laguna Beach Independent Newspaper
Distilling Majesty on Canvas - November 2013
By Liz Goldner, Special to the Independent
She hiked from her lodgings just outside the canyon into the woods, but was unable to return to the painting location of the previous day. Fortunately the body of the painting, “Transept,” was far enough along to complete at home.
Before leaving, she commiserated with a busload of European tourists, their travel plans undone by events in the nation’s capitol. The plight of visitors who had traveled thousands of miles to experience one of the country’s greatest national treasures underscored the importance of her own “quest,” painting on location in each of the 401 national parks.
“These national treasures are too precious for short-sighted politicians to toy with,” said Maurice (pronounced “Morris”).
Upon returning home, she completed “Transept,” which she explains captures the essence and breadth of the Grand Canyon. Her goal is to distill the atmosphere within the individual parks, breathing in their air, light and fragrance in order to imbue each painting with “exceptional life. FITZ Maurice in her Laguna Canyon studio, with “Transept,” depicting the Grand Canyon, her 1008th painting.
After a decade painting periodically in such remote regions as New Mexico’s Zuni Mountains, Maurice set out to capture national parks, forests and monuments last year. To finance these expeditions, she embarked on a “kickstarter” campaign, an online fundraising scheme sometimes referred to as, “The People’s NEA.” The campaign included two videos of her at work. While her goal was to pre-sell national park paintings, she surpassed this with two collectors paying her handsomely in advance for artwork of their choice, and two others paying for custom-framed prints of earlier park paintings.
Since successfully concluding her campaign, Maurice has visited five national parks and forests, including California’s Kings Canyon and Sequoia, and New Mexico’s Bandelier National Monument; and she has completed eight original oil paintings. Earlier this year, she visited Virginia’s Shenandoah Park where she hiked among the sun-splattered waterfalls, and then depicted these cascades in paintings titled, “Dawn,” “Water Falling,” “Twilight” and “Celestia.”
In her Laguna Canyon studio, standing in front of “Transept,” her Grand Canyon opus, she describes that canyon as “God’s signature on this planet.” She adds that, “in order to connect with the force that carved out this canyon,” she first rafted on the Colorado River. That was back in September, after which she drove four hours to the canyon’s north rim where temperatures fell to freezing. She stayed in a rustic cabin just outside the national park for a week, driving, then hiking each day into the woods, scrambling up cliffs through rocks, “to find the best site to capture the canyon’s essence.”
With the spirit of plein air artists, she carried her easel, paints and brushes, spent time absorbing the essence and beauty of the location, and worked assiduously on her painting.
With her marketing instincts as irrepressible as her creativity, Maurice contacted the National Parks Foundation and received informal approval that her park images will be added to the NPF website, according to an email from a staff member who declined to be identified.
Collector Rod Gypin of Laguna Niguel, who purchased “Serene,” depicting Bandelier Monument, expresses reverence for her work. “She is helping to re-energize our national parks.”
Leslie Vaughan of Aliso Viejo who bought “Transept” says, “With climactic changes occurring all over the world, this project is especially important. The parks of today may be significantly different in the future.”
Maurice, a New York native, received her master’s in fine arts from Rochester Institute of Technology. For years, she explored a figurative style, of people at work and play, of landscapes and cityscapes; the latter is exemplified by her 2009 series, “Common Ground,” celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification. She has also won numerous awards including the 2001 Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner Award.
She calls her newest artistic style, embodied in the national parks series, “Illuminism.” Painted with thickly applied oils, the series evokes impressionism with its depiction of light and movement; while the overall effect is expressive, recalling Van Gogh’s landscapes. She says, “I have loved these national parks, these monuments of beauty, for many years. They inspire artists of all kinds, provide golden memories and give us all a sense of national pride.”
Liz Goldner, who contributes to ArtScene, Art Ltd., Artillery, OC Register Magazine, Laguna Beach Art Magazine and more, lives in Laguna Beach. She is a member of International Association of Art Critics.