Spotlight: Mai Wyn Schantz

A conversation with the Denver painter.

Mai Wyn Schantz in her studio.
Photo by Paul Miller

How it all began…

“I grew up in a little town north of Milwaukee called Cedarburg, which has a very rich arts scene. I was always the artsy girl who wanted to decorate the float for homecoming or make signs, but I was annoyed when people would say, ‘Oh, I bet you want to be an artist someday.’ Still, I ended up going to the Milwaukee School of Art and Design. I left in my junior year to follow a boy out to Colorado, spent a semester at CU, and then switched to Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where I picked painting as my focus. I felt like, ‘I am back where I belong.’ ”

Her process

“In school, I started painting on metal because the surface is so smooth and I can lay down my paint very thinly. I was in my senior year doing a painting program with Clark Richert, and I had to justify everything and make it relevant. I did this piece where—I can’t remember what the statistic was, but it was like a little over three percent of the land mass in the United States is a national park, so I did a piece where only three percent of the metal was painted with landscape. I played with the idea, and it just stuck. I work today on 18-gauge stainless steel.”

Her inspiration

“My major influence, whether it’s my landscape paintings, my trophy animal paintings, or my paintings of twigs, is the early years I spent canoeing with my dad in northern Minnesota and southern Ontario in an area called the Boundary Waters. For 20 years, until I was 30, we would do week-long canoe trips. My dad introduced me to nature, and my love of landscape really came from sitting in the bow of the canoe and looking at these expansive skies and waters.”

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Where she shows her work

Schantz has her own studio in the back space of her gallery, Mai Wyn Fine Art, which she opened five years ago in the Santa Fe Art District. She uses the space to also show the work of fellow artists whom she admires. “After graduating from art school, I moved back to Wisconsin and shared a studio with other artists in a cool warehouse where we had four studios and one gallery space. After coming back to Colorado, I missed that space terribly. I liked the idea of having a storefront, and when this space became available, I’d look in and think, ‘Oh, I could do a lot with that space.’ I have solo, two-person, or group shows up front, and represent over a dozen artists. I think of them as my family.”

Mai Wyn Fine Art
744 Santa Fe Dr.