Local artist blends oil paints into pseudo-cubist masterpieces

Priscilla Sandoz blends oil paints into pseudo-cubist masterpieces. Sandoz lays down a sweeping arc of blue for the British flag.

SCOTTSBLUFF — Priscilla Sandoz had a love of art from the very beginning.

“If I wasn’t the teacher’s pet in every art class, I worried I was doing something wrong,” she said, laughing.

Sandoz and her family lived in Alliance until she was in junior high, when they moved to Gering.

“I was in love with the idea of moving, we were moving to the big town,” Sandoz said.

Her mother attended art classes at Western Nebraska Community College and would come home and teach Sandoz and her brother what she learned, including color theory and art psychology.

Sandoz attended Gering Junior High School but decided to go to Nebraska Christian School in Central City for her junior and senior years.

“It was a challenge. I almost got out of it, since they didn’t have a very strong art program and I knew that whatever I was going to do in life was going to involve art,” Sandoz said. “My mother talked me into going for just a semester, and I just loved it.”

While Sandoz was talented at art in Gering, going to a smaller school allowed her to participate in more activities, from track-and-field to journalism.

“I got to do more things, and it made me a more well-rounded person,” she said.

After graduating in 1993, Sandoz moved back to the Scottsbluff area. She ran Mud Pie, a ceramic studio for children, where they could come in and paint ready-made ceramic sculptures.

“I didn’t know I wanted to go into art education until I started running Mud Pie,” Sandoz said. “But I just loved watching the light bulb go on and when kids came back the next day and were like, ‘Look, I can do this.’”

She decided to attend Chadron State College and WNCC to major in art education, and sold her business.

It was at WNCC that Sandoz would be first introduced to Picasso and cubism by Yelena Khanevskaya, an art instructor.

“I didn’t like Picasso then,” she admitted. “I didn’t have much of an appreciation for abstract art, then I started really looking into it. It’s really cool how, for instance, the temperature of colors can change the atmospheric depth in a painting.”

She also looks to Braque and Cezanne for inspiration, as they were leaders of the contemporary art movement.

“Cezanne was the pioneer for contemporary art, he was out there making contemporary art more accessible,” Sandoz said.

Her main focus is oil on canvas, the most traditional form of painting.

“I work mostly with primary colors and mix them to create the color that I need for a piece,” said Sandoz.

She mixes her paint with different types of oil depending on her painting.

“Some oils make the paint dry faster, so that I can add more layers. I also use linseed oil to extend the pigments and create some transparency,” she said.

After college, Sandoz started going to galleries and tried to find representation. However, she had difficulty, as her art style wasn’t as popular then.

Her husband Brandon Bailey, however, was doing exceptionally well, as his art style is more realistic.

“It changes your expectations,” Sandoz said of living with a partner. “We made a great partnership because we were in different areas of the art field, and we can bounce ideas off of each other.”

Sandoz started Studio B five years ago after she finished her studies. It started out as a studio and a gallery space, where people could come in and watch her and Bailey work on their paintings. However, the pair switched the focus of the shop in February of this year, taking out the framing business and adding a gift shop, encouraging more of a gallery-style business.

“To some people, art feels too expensive or snobby, so they don’t really want to approach it. I think this shop broke that barrier down and I’m selling more paintings,” Sandoz said.

Her art style is slowly becoming more acceptable, and Sandoz is excited about that change.

“The best compliment I got was from a woman who saw one of my pieces and said, ‘I don’t want to like it, but I do.’ It kind of echoed my experience with Picasso,” Sandoz said.

She is currently working on a few pieces for an October show on her genealogy and ethnic background with her former instructor, Khanevskaya. The show will include portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth I of England in a playing-card style.

“The struggle is taking something that is deeply personal to me and selling it,” Sandoz said. “But I like to think of it as the American story — what happened to my family through the generations has probably happened to lots of other families through the generations.”

Looking forward, Sandoz hopes that her art will only grow in popularity, but also that she can continue painting from the within.

“As long as I can grow and get better, that’s fabulous.”

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