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Neighborhood art gallery blossoms in Picacho Hills


After Paul Maxwell and other Picacho Hills artists had to cancel the annual Art in the Garden event this year, Maxwell started thinking about other ways to share his work.

He had a big spring planned with the Arti in the Garden event and two other shows planned in Las Cruces to show his artwork. Then he remembered Florence, Italy, and the amazing street-chalk artists recreating the work of the masters on the ground.

“I got the idea maybe I could do some sidewalk art, and I walked out, and of course I don’t have any sidewalks,” he said. “I came up with the idea that I could get some plywood, and I had some house paint samples.”

Maxwell had participated in a Las Cruces downtown mural project in December 2019, and he had paint leftover. The first two panes he painted were copies of some of his own original acrylic works. He works in his front yard under a giant desert willow tree, where he can wave at neighbors cruising by.

There are some challenges in painting art in house paint outdoors, he admitted. It is hot and windy sometimes and house paint dries quickly.

“I try to get it done fast,” Maxwell said. “These colors don’t come out of a jar. I have a basic blue, red, a couple of greens, white and some tans. I mix like I do my acrylic. I use big brushes and move quickly. As an artist, it’s a big challenge, but I have fun doing it at the end of the day.”

While the paintings are not for sale, he intends to eventually have a charity auction of some kind to raise money for the local food bank.

Other paintings that are part of “Our Neighborhood Gallery,” (6648 Vista Hermosa) include Van Gogh and Monet replications. One of Van Gogh’s paintings, part of the Saintes-Maries series, has been one of Maxwell’s favorites for a long time, since he saw the original at a San Francisco art museum. He takes suggestions at pmaxwell@bnsl.org.

“People ask me all the time, ‘have you always been an artist?’ and the answer is yes,” Maxwell said. “As a kid, I used to pick up pencils. As I grew up, I would do stuff in school, and I was doing portraits and oils in my teen years and my early 20s, but I was also going to college. I knew I had to make a living, and I also wanted to be financially successful, and I knew art is not paying bills.”

Maxwell ended up with a PhD in engineering and science. He taught for a while, was a consultant in Washington for several years, served as a diplomat, was vice-president of research at the University of Texas-El Paso and ran his own nonprofit in Santa Teresa, the Bi-National Sustainability Lab.

“I took kind of a crooked road down the path of creativity,” he said. “But science and engineering are creative arts, as well, only they don’t like to be called art. They like to think it’s all logical and analytical, but reality is most scientists I have worked with over the years are very creative.”

In 2012, Maxwell was ready for a life change, and since art was something he wanted to explore, it became an opportunity to move in that direction. Now living in Picacho Hills, he has been taking classes, art training and creating art ever since.

Maxwell’s artwork can be found at www.maxnewmexart.com.

Paul Maxwell, Our Neighborhood Gallery