By Endia Fontanez

The last year has been a wild ride for all of us, as we have had to learn and adapt to a completely new day-to-day life in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. For some, the best way to cope has been to immerse oneself in art as a form of self-expression during isolation. 

Charmagne Vasquez Coe, a life-long artist and Arizona native, spent the last year continuing to create paintings on a daily basis as her personal way to get through challenging times. A collection of these paintings is currently on display at Royse Contemporary in Scottsdale. 

The exhibition, titled Contrails and Peripheries, will be on display through March 21. The theme reflects “the state of being present while acknowledging the past and seeing glimpses of the future,” said Vasquez Coe.  

“During the time of instability, despair, solitude, upheaval, reawakenings, planning, transition, new love, relocating ... these are physical expressions of experiences. Be it living during this complex era of political turmoil and COVID-19, a pheasant who took refuge in my yard, or appreciating experiences with my loved ones in this city. These are my painted words, painted breaths, painted determination and I wish to keep creating,” said Vasquez Coe of her newest exhibition. 

Vasquez Coe said that her approach to art is similar to any job that one does every day. Rather, she does not wait for one big burst of inspiration to strike, but instead it is something that she must wake up and do every single day, even if she does not feel like it. She said art is her way of documenting the thoughts and feelings of her daily life. 

Vasquez Coe described “Contrails and Peripheries” as different from her previous exhibitions, as a result of the last year’s impact on her outlook on life. She described her recent work as “a lot less romantic, and just bare bones. I think the pandemic has been like this refined kind of process emotionally, and the seriousness of all of us experiencing loss and being afraid of our own health. It's really shaped life and shaped work.”

Hosting this exhibition at Royse Contemporary, she said, was an obvious choice. Vasquez Coe has worked with gallery owner Nicole Royse in the past and has always appreciated her willingness to support artists as they grow and change, and encouraging them to take risks. 

“I've heard stories from other artists, too, that sometimes they feel strangled in a gallery situation or an agent situation. It has been a different story with Nicole. This body of work is significantly different than the last and I feel thankful that she just kept me on through all my different sciences, like mutations and evolutions in my artwork. Sometimes gallery's won’t, they'll say you're not doing the same thing you've always done, it's not safe, but she never said that,” Vasquez Coe said. 

Nicole Royse has been a vital part of the Arizona art community for the last decade. She previously has curated galleries Willo North and MonOrchid before opening Royse Contemporary four years ago in Old Town Scottsdale. Royse also participates in the weekly Scottsdale Art Walk each Thursday.  

Royse, who represents Vasquez Coe, described the exhibition as “unique, thought-provoking and engaging on many levels” and said that “each mixed media painting elicits an emotional connection for someone through the organic transformation of colors and marks onto the canvas.”

Vasquez Coe said she hopes that people will leave after viewing her exhibition with a sense of joy, or at least a temporary escape from the madness of the current world. 

“I think that everybody brings themselves to the work, as well as the work presenting itself to them. So I hope it's meaningful in whatever way that they need to be,” Vasquez Coe said.

Photo courtesy of The Dinah

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