What: Flora befora

When: The show runs through Nov. 8

Where: San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Gallery

Reception: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday

More info: 505-566-3464

FARMINGTON — From paintings of women in gardens to Colorado streams, artist John Grow has a wide repertoire of art.

Starting Friday, the paintings will be displayed at the Henderson Fine Arts Gallery at San Juan College.

For the exhibit, Grow, who lives in Durango, Colo., pulled together about 40 pieces of his art, which is more than he has ever shown at one time.

Seventeen of the paintings displayed are from his series "Flora befora," which is an existentialist-themed series portraying female figures in gardens. Grow said the gardens represent the world, and the females represent individuals.

"Heaven Noir" by John Grow
"Heaven Noir" by John Grow (The Daily Times photo)

Grow described existentialism as a "philosophy that we can never acquire enough information to make a perfect choice." Yet, Grow said, we still have to make decisions based on the information we have.

One of his paintings features a woman standing in a garden where an apple is growing. The woman is smiling. Grow said the smile indicates that she has just decided she is going to take it, but her positioning shows that she has hesitated. He said the painting is about wanting something and making responsible decisions.

Grow said he started his existentialist paintings after Heather Leavitt Martinez, a fellow Durango artist, pointed out an existentialist thread in one of his paintings entitled "Heaven Noir."

Grow said he already had the skills for figure painting, which left him with the decision of what to use for the background. He was inspired by Durango artist Stanton Englehart's method of painting canyons by rolling a piece of cloth through paint. Grow said this enabled Englehart to paint large backgrounds quickly, which Grow also wanted to do.

However, he said he didn't want to steal Englehart's idea, so he chose to create rollers that would leave leaf imprints. He used large cardboard tubes that hold carpet for the body of the roller and foam to make the leaf shapes. Finally, he placed a stick through the center.

Using these rollers, Grow can paint a background in a few minutes.

Grow works using oil paints, which has advantages and disadvantages. He said the slow-drying aspects of oil are beneficial when he works for long periods of time and needs to blend paint. However, Grow also works in layers, which means he has to wait for one layer to dry before he can paint the next.

"Needed Dream" by John Grow
"Needed Dream" by John Grow (The Daily Times photo)

During the summer, he will place the paintings in his car. He said the heat usually dries the painting in a day or two. However, in the winter, it can take a week for a painting to dry.

Grow said he enjoys art for two reasons. The first is he likes the preparation, either the field work he does for landscapes or working with the models.

"It's a way to work and do something enjoyable at the same time," he said.

The second reason, he said, is the zone his mind goes into while painting.

"It's beautiful," he said. "It's purposeful."

This love of art is why Grow is able to spend between six and 12 hours a day painting.

"If you don't enjoy it, you better not be in this line of art," Grow said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.