Artist Vernon Witham (the painter for "Surviving Picasso," famous University of Oregon alumnus, shown in museums internationally), who has been prominently featured on Art of Santa Fe, much beloved here and in his home state of Oregon, passed away this morning after a long illness. Vernon Witham will always be remembered for his brilliant talent and originality.
Vern Witham painted in nearly every style imaginable, with supreme skill. Most of his work came from the vast depths of his mind. Vernon had architectural and engineering skills, as well, which are evidenced in his immense body of work. He designed and built a fabulous house and painting studio in Santa Fe, which he shared with his younger sister, painter Beverly Jean.
Vernon Witham's paintings and his recent #2 pencil drawings were derived from his wild, humorous, vivid imagination, from faces and animals that he had logged into his steel-trap mind throughout 84 years, which he deftly incorporated into surreal and amusing scenes. Vern had a distinct, individual style which is instantly recognizable in his artwork. Witham received a phone call from his old friend James Ivory last week, who told him that his 1950s paintings were superior to those done by Picasso during that era.
People who are very familiar with Vernon Witham's landscapes of New Mexico and Oregon will automatically visualize his unique interpretation of clouds whenever they look at the sky. I see Vern Witham's clouds up there often, in their chubby, almost human forms. Vernon saw many more magical things in the Santa Fe skies than usual during his last days. Vernon said to his sister Beverly Jean (Tiqua), while in the agony which preceded his passing into Heaven, that he saw God and knows He exists. We see God in Vern's fantastic paintings.
©M-J de Mesterton, August 2010
From the Santa Fe New Mexican, Vernon Witham's Obituary