Paper Houses - yellow
Paper Houses - red
Paper Houses - adobe
Truchas Series
Lobster Gut Series
Subways Crossing Series
Lower Basin Series
Color Column Series
Chama Valley Series
Chama Valley Explanation
Buoy Strings Series
Sierra Nevada RR Series
Gallery House Series
Class One Railroads Model Photographs
Class One RR Series
Mergers & Acquisitions Series
Airport Series Model Photographs
Airport Series
Airport Series Enlargements
Grenada Series
Color Traffic Series
Streams-Bogs Series
Rainbow Polyphony Series
Upland Series
Fashion Series




These paintings are inspired by the Chama River valley in Northern New Mexico. The river in this valley is Federally listed as a National Wild and Scenic River and it flows through the western portion of the Santa Fe National Forest. The valley is defined by brightly colored cliffs made of layers of sedimentary rock. Tall buttresses of resistant Jurassic sandstone over Triassic mudstones were created by ancient seas two hundred million years ago. The top sedimentary layer is peach colored, the intermediate layer is pale gray and the bottom layer is russet. Younger dark gray Cretaceous sandstone caps the mesa. The river is edged by bright green vegetation and bordered by grass and sage brush flats. Pinyon and juniper trees provide dark green accents while the slopes above the cliffs are blankets of darker green Douglas fir.

To guide my paintings, I made an abstract white cardboard model to represent the confluence of the Rio Gallina with the Rio Chama. Channelling from the north through canyons, these rivers descend to form the valley of 'Piedra Lumbre' (Shining Stone), so named by the early Spaniards. The model depicts vertical volumes of varying heights, in groups of three, situated on three sides of the confluence. The volumes are sculpted to be wedge shaped, narrow toward the water, and wider further back. The face of each volume recalls the special aspects of the valley's cliffs: colored horizontal rock layers bounded above and below by vegetative or mineral slopes. Each cluster of volumes has a mix of three heights with the highest in the center. The volumes are separated slightly to recall the fractured cliff faces. The faces of the volumes produce the surfaces on which the shadows fall. The model base is stepped to place the clusters at differing heights and to allow the water to show. Several elevation drawings were made of the model which became the painting layouts.

The model was photographed looking along each water course with a single light source in order to obtain crisp shadows, areas of raking light and areas of direct light. This information is noted on the painting layout sheets. From our photos taken in the valley, the colors were determined for the river banks, the broad flats, the slopes, the vegetation and the rock faces. I developed a system to assign paint colors for the various areas of the layout sheets. The closer volumes are darker than the distant volumes. More mineral material shows in the foreground while more vegetative material shows in the background. The sky was graded horizontally from dark overhead to light near the horizon. There are approximately forty-seven colors in each painting.

The Chama Valley has interested numerous painters including Georgia O'Keefe, Elizabeth Rickert and Joseph Biggert, to name three whose work I know. The word Chama is a Tewa Indian name. Nearby, was a former pueblo where annual wrestling contests took place, hence 'The Wrestling River'. The contests still go on, however on the grand scale of deep time, between water and rock.

Malcolm Montague Davis

450 Harrison Avenue, Suite 313, Boston, MA 02118Tel 617-266-0460 E-mail mmd@malcolmmontaguedavis.comStudio visit by appointment.