20" x 30", oil on linen, 2006, Ed Mell

A Lifetime of Artistic Achievement Ed Mell

The work of painter and sculptor Ed Mell has made an indelible mark on the art world. He’s been celebrated both here in his home state of Arizona and around the globe. 

January 18, 2020, Mell will receive further recognition of his achievements when he receives the 2020 Desert Caballeros Western Museum Lifetime Achievement Award at the Wickenburg museum’s annual heART of the West Gala.

“Ed Mell’s command of subjects both large and small with an angularity of style, and his ability to excel in multiple venues and media, makes him incomparable,” says Desert Caballeros Western Museum executive director, Dan Finley. 

“He is, without a doubt, one of our state’s foremost living artists.”

Mell grew up in Phoenix and eventually spent time in New York City as a graphic designer for heavy-hitting agencies Young and Rubicam and Kenyon Eckhardt. After spending two summers teaching art on the Hopi Reservation in the early 1970s, he was compelled to leave big city life and return to his Arizona roots.

Since 1973, Mell has painted and sculpted the essence of Arizona’s landscapes, flora, animals and people with bold lines and colors that communicate movement and energy. His work reflects the heart of the state in an almost timeless manner and occupies important public spaces. 

“Jack Knife,” a bronze sculpture depicting a cowboy on a bucking bronco, is at the center of Old Town Scottsdale’s Main Street Arts District. 

The silver patina of his “Rising Phoenix” sculpture shines in Cesar Chavez Plaza, in front of Phoenix’s old City Hall. 

These embodiments of Arizona’s culture are present in the artist himself. Mell has seen Phoenix and the state grow and change over the years. Mell’s work is a record of the timely and the timeless. His talent for capturing vast Arizona skies, towering rock formations and fierce desert weather comes from many adventures on foot and by helicopter to remote corners of the state. 

His oil paintings often occupy large canvases, but begin as a series of smaller studies. Mell’s earlier works are more angular and reflect his graphic design background. 

He’s also ventured into theatrical productions. His paintings were the guide and backdrop for Arizona Opera’s production of Craig Bohmler’s “Riders of the Purple Sage,” inspired by the work of another Arizona legend, author Zane Grey.

With this recognition, Mell’s diverse body of work will be celebrated as a whole—and the artist is pleased with the results.

“It has been a pleasure to work with the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, putting together my first true show covering the full width of my fine art career,” says Mell. 

“The director, Dan Finley, curator Mary Ann Inga and the full staff have made it a pleasure to assemble.”

The exhibition will remain on view in the Smithsonian affiliate’s Fisher Gallery December 21, 2019 through March 8, 2020.


Ed Mell’s Southwest: Five Decades

Dec. 21–March 8 | Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. | Sunday Noon–4 p.m. | Desert Caballeros Western Museum | 21 N. Frontier St., Wickenburg

$12 Adults | $10 Seniors (65+) and AAA Members | Active military and guest free | Children 17 and under free | 928-684-2272 | westernmuseum.org 

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