Accomplished landscape painter Forrest Moses was perhaps most at home in the wilderness he brought to life with his art.
The longtime Santa Fe resident, whose works were found in a variety of public collections, died in his sleep Friday at his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 86.
Moses been represented locally by LewAllen Galleries for over two decades. In recent years, poor eyesight and a lack of mobility due to health issues prevented him from making art. LewAllen honored him with a 50-year retrospective in 2019. It was his 16th solo exhibition and the last public exhibition of his work at the gallery.
“He was drawn here by the quality of the light, the beauty of the land, the open skies,” said his friend of 47 years, Charles Mackay, former general director of the Santa Fe Opera. “He was always a seeker of truth and beauty. He meditated when he came here. He studied philosophy and Buddhism and delved into spiritual studies. He felt very much at home in Santa Fe.”
Moses’ paintings are in the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Roswell Museum and Art Center and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Corporate collections include American Telephone & Telegraph, General Electric, IBM and United Airlines.
Born in Danville, Va., Moses began painting at the age of 9.
“Nobody knew I was going to be a professional painter,” he told The New Mexican in 2019. “I was just painting. It’s not a decision that you make. It does it for you. It just happens.”
Moses graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., in 1956. After college, he joined the U.S. Navy and became an air intelligence officer in Southeast Asia, stationed in the Philippines.
While still in the service, he visited Hong Kong, Guam and Japan. He was greatly influenced by Japanese aesthetics and the philosophy of wabi-sabi, or the notion of seeing beauty in imperfection, which is reflected in the abstract and expressionistic qualities of his landscapes.
After his tour of duty, Moses spent a year traveling in Europe, where he became fascinated by the historic works of art and architecture. In 1959, he attended New York’s Pratt Institute to study architecture and design. His 50-plus year career as a fine artist began after a move to Houston in the early 1960s. He relocated to Santa Fe in 1969.
Moses remained in Santa Fe until 2010, when he relocated to Palm Springs to escape debilitating seasonal allergies.
“He had a long and very happy and productive life and leaves a wonderful body of work, which will provide inspiration and great beauty for years to come,” said Mackay.
Mackay said Moses was admitted to a hospital in Palm Springs early last week and was discharged before his death. He was receiving hospice care at home.
“Moses will be remembered as a visionary artist whose continuous zeal to express the ineffable resulted in masterful paintings and monotypes that uniquely abstracted the pulses, vibrations, lines and colors of nature’s beauty,” said the LewAllen co-owner Kenneth Marvel.
The painter spent his last days with his bed turned to a view of nearby mountains, surrounded by objects he requested, said Marvel, who added, “He died in an environment of the beauty he tried to bring to the world.”
The gallery will announce a memorial exhibition of Moses’ work at a later date.