The passionate vision of Joella Jean Mahoney: 5 decades on the Colorado Plateau

Photo courtesy of Museum of Northern Arizona

"Canyon Sanctuary," from artist Joella Jean MahoneyÕs Inner Canyon Series (60Ó x 48Ó oil on canvas, 1983) is one of the pieces featured in her one-woman show that opens Sept. 17 at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

Photo courtesy of Museum of Northern Arizona "Canyon Sanctuary," from artist Joella Jean MahoneyÕs Inner Canyon Series (60Ó x 48Ó oil on canvas, 1983) is one of the pieces featured in her one-woman show that opens Sept. 17 at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

FLAGSTAFF -- American artist Joella Jean Mahoney's large scale paintings will be featured in a one-woman show, "Passionate Vision," at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff from Sept. 17 through Dec. 31. The exhibit is curated by Guest Curator Alan Petersen, Chair of Fine Arts, Coconino Community College. Her work captures the essence of the Colorado Plateau landscapes and fuses the geological, the emotional and the spiritual soul of the region.

In this statement, Petersen shares his enthusiasm for Mahoney's paintings. "Joella Jean Mahoney's work continues a great tradition of romantic landscape painting in the Southwest," he said. "Her passionate vision is one of expansive topographic views of the land, as well as quiet interior spaces. Her style and commitment to her subject display a veracity and spiritual aspect equaled by few artists. Passionate Vision is a rare opportunity to experience the Colorado Plateau through the compelling artwork of a contemporary master."

Museum Director Robert Breunig described the exhibit as an in incredible body of work.

"Although these works are about this region, the effect of this art is not parochial--Joella Jean Mahoney touches universal themes and provokes deep emotions," Breunig said. "It is about the inner, visceral experience we all have when we come upon an electrifying landscape. It's about the way we respond when we see an incredible vista, or when an unusual cloud formation floats above the land."

Mahoney described how the people have reacted to her work.

"I often hear from people that my paintings give them the experience of being on this special landscape and through the paintings they become more aware of its beauty," she said. "MNA taught me about this region. That's why it's so meaningful to me-this exhibit-because it completes the cycle that began in 1951 when I came to Flagstaff. It was then, that MNA revealed the power, the mystery, and the beauty of this place to me, a place that is unique throughout the world."

Each of Mahoney's 33 paintings will be accompanied by a personal story by the artist, revealing the artist's inner thoughts.

"The color in my paintings is not an exaggeration," Mahoney said. "The Southwest is truly a land of color and color holds an emotional charge. It can be healing because it may bring up to the conscious level an awareness of feelings. The experience of beauty can also be healing, because it stimulates the feeling of wholeness."

Looking back

"I was from Chicago, by way of California," Mahoney said. "I saw Arizona for the first time when I stepped off the train in Flagstaff to attend college. It was dawn. The stars overhead were like lanterns, the sky was crystalline and in the distance the mountains were like cardboard cutouts. The sun came up and turned the scene into Technicolor. I saw a landscape that matched how I felt inside and I stepped into my future."

Mahoney graduated from Arizona State College, now Northern Arizona University, in 1955 and has an master's in fine arts in painting and drawing from Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. She is Professor of Art Emerita at the University of La Verne in California.

Her work has become internationally known through the Art in the Embassies Program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department and through numerous exhibits, including an annual New York show and 30- and 40-year retrospectives at the Northern Arizona University Fine Art Museum, the West Valley Art Museum in Phoenix, the University of La Verne Art Museum, and The Kolb Studio at the Grand Canyon. Mahoney is represented by Arte-Misia Gallery in Sedona, Arizona and the Red Stone Gallery on the web.

Mahoney will be an active part of this exhibit. She will offer a series of presentations throughout the fall and will also personally lead some of the gallery tours. She said she is eager to interact with visitors of all ages and she will be doing some of her painting in the gallery during the time of the exhibit. Look for a schedule of these events on the Museum's website, once the exhibit opens on Sept. 17.

Art auction

Mahoney is also offering to create a commissioned painting (up to 20 square feet on a landscape subject of the winning bidder's choice) for a limited-time auction with a $20,000 minimum bid. The entire auction proceeds are for the benefit of the Museum of Northern Arizona.

Bidding begins at the special Member's Exhibit Preview and continues through Dec.16 at 5 p.m. Bids may be made at MNA's website ( or by using a bid sheet available at the museum's front desk.

The Museum of Northern Arizona sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, just three miles north of historic downtown Flagstaff on Highway 180. Additional information about "Passionate Vision" or the Museum is available at

The Member's Exhibit Preview is on Sept. 17 from 5-7 p.m. To attend, contact the Museum's Membership Department at 928-774-5213, ext. 219.


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