There are few things we know for sure about Lor Roybal-Kotan. She was born and raised in New Mexico and lives off the grid near Pecos, north of Santa Fe. She spends her days painting. Her dog is her closest companion.
Every so often, Lor takes an expedition to Matthews Gallery to deliver new artwork. She brings it in a small treasure chest adorned with an image of a hawk. We might not know much about Lor herself, but when she opens that box a universe of stories flies out.
Lor’s portrait subjects are mostly fictional, but they all have names and biographies. There are daring circus performers and pensive poets, gossipy grandmothers and mischievous little boys, charming sprites and long-departed spirits.
The artist talks a mile a minute as she flips through the exquisite little cards. Almost all of them are for sale, but every so often she’ll stop on one of the faces. “I can never sell him,” she’ll say.
The only topic Lor likes better than the rich inner worlds of her beloved characters is art history. Her vast knowledge of modernism is visible in her paintings. A woman’s face resembles one of Picasso’s famous models, or a floating figure recalls Chagall’s portraits of his wife.
This vast web of influences never dampens Lor’s fierce originality, which is cultivated by her love for the characters she creates. She’s a true pioneer, in art and in life.