Fine art

The spirit of Inger Jirby

Calling Taos home since 1996, the Swedish-born artist captures vibrancy of our region

By Yvonne Pesquera
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 9/28/18

She displays a bounty of colorful works both inside and on the exterior of her adobe gallery. Patrons at the Taos Inn can see a glass showcase of Jirby’s paintings in the Adobe Bar. Now everyone has an opportunity to meet the artist ...

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Fine art

The spirit of Inger Jirby

Calling Taos home since 1996, the Swedish-born artist captures vibrancy of our region

Posted

She displays a bounty of colorful works both inside and on the exterior of her adobe gallery. Patrons at the Taos Inn can see a glass showcase of Jirby’s paintings in the Adobe Bar. Now everyone has an opportunity to meet the artist, whose zest for life is on par with her bright, emotionally charged paintings.

The Inger Jirby Gallery at 207 Ledoux St. will host an opening reception Saturday (Sept. 29) from 5-7 p.m. The event is free and open to everyone.

“It’s a landmark every year to have at least one social. It has many aspects: to contact my friends and ask them to come and to connect with the public,” Jirby said.

The title of Jirby’s show is “New Mexican Landscapes and Churches.” She explained, “I got obsessed with churches. They appear many times in my landscapes. I paint the small villages and often there is a church. They give a sense of community, spirituality.”

Jirby would know about both. She doesn’t just stay in her gallery.

She is often spotted around Taos – shopping and eating at restaurants. For self-care of spirit, she regularly practices at Shree Yoga.

“This is my home. I am a community member. I like to joke that ‘Taos is my last stop.’ I don’t know any better place to live,” Jirby said.

Jirby is originally from Kiruna, Sweden, a mountain town that sits north of the Arctic Circle and had only 6,000 inhabitants when she grew up.

It was in Sweden that Jirby learned to paint. She was influenced by the Swedish artists who had studied with Impressionists, such as Henri Matisse, in Paris around 1910. “Those were the paintings I was surrounded by as a kid,” she said.

Jirby’s work is infused with style. She uses the “put” technique of painting; meaning, she purposefully puts her paintbrush versus a stroke. She mixes her paints right on the canvas.

“My paintings have always had a style; you always knew it was my work. I was born with a style. I just followed my feelings and instincts,” said Jirby.

The artist also has a personal sense of style. She dresses in deliberate fabrics, accessorizes with jewelry and always wears a hat. “I learned my style from my mother. I got the hats from her. She said: ‘Look at the people: it’s the hat that finishes the outfit.’ Always when I dress, I’m looking for something to put on my head,” she said.

On the day Tempo met with Jirby, she wore a wide-brimmed sun hat as she prepared to leave for Santa Fe. She had been invited to paint for two days at The Inn of the Five Graces.

“They are big collectors of mine. My paintings are in the lobby,” she said.

In addition to her own gallery in Taos, Jirby is represented by Acosta Strong on Canyon Road and is considering representation by a gallery in Phoenix.

Jirby works double-time to straddle the line between successful businesswoman and successful artist. She titles, signs and dates each of her paintings on the back.

Decades ago, she learned how to catalogue her paintings: she has them photographed and keeps good records of collectors and purchases to ensure provenance. When it comes to computers, Jirby calls herself a “technical idiot” and acknowledges the help of her assistant, Elisabeth Mason.

The Inger Jirby Gallery is located on historic Ledoux Street and is part of a 200-year-old adobe compound. Her gallery includes a sculpture garden and casitas for guests wishing to explore Taos.

She also displays the kinetic steel sculptures of Santa Fe artist Frederick Prescott. The brown elk sculpture out front moves with the wind and is heavily photographed by tourists and locals alike.

In her paintings, Jirby uses oils and acrylics. Lately, she has been leaning more toward acrylics because of the speed and lack of fumes. She paints very thickly, so with oil, it could easily take up to a month for a painting to dry.

“With acrylic, I like the fact that I can change something after many years,” she said.

Which is a surprising comment from a master painter. Off the top of her head, Jirby couldn’t count the number of paintings she has created over the past 50 years. And if she did come up with a count, that wouldn’t include the innumerable sketches and drawings she’s done.

“I’m always striving to do each painting better because I feel like I’m falling short. When I’m creating, I’m free painting. It comes out of the subconscious and intuitive knowledge. Everything comes totally together, an inspired work. That’s a gift from a higher power,” said Jirby.

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