Artist Stephen Morath eyes Second Base

Manitou artist Steve Morathe- Autumn by the Spanish Peaks, the Wahatoya of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
The painting drew our eyes as we ate in the Eastside Del Taco. Among many gaily colored prints by the same artist was this pop-ish depiction of what could only be the Spanish Peaks. Southwest-scapes are ubiquitous enough to seem completely generic, and Pikes Peak belongs to America the Beautiful, but the Wahatoya are our private purple majesties. Did a stranger conjure these breast-peaks to pair with another iconic fixation, the red pickup truck, or was this uncharacteristic fast-food outlet choosing to showcase a local talent? Neither.

The prints were signed “S. Morath” and sure enough, that’s Steve Morath of Manitou Springs, regular regional Opera chorus member, church music director, and beyond-the-scene fine-artist. He doesn’t exhibit locally, but the mild-mannered Morath doubles as an artist of national distinction. He’s represented by the Leslie Levy Fine Art Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona, and every internet art poster purveyor. There are even online sources for digital downloads if you want to do the reproduction yourself.

If you did not know that the Spanish Peaks of the Sangre de Cristos are called by the Native Americans the Wahatoya, or “Breasts of the Earth,” then my post title may have seemed cryptic. Otherwise, obviously Stephen Morath’s little red truck is going much further. If the connection was obvious, touching a girl’s breasts is getting to “Second Base,” I would have titled this Morath Has Eyes on Home.

Only a classic car buff is looking at the ’48 Ford/Chevy, and your eyes don’t linger long on R. Crumb’s Madonna Nature’s pointy brassiere. The focal point of this composition is the little curve in the road, lying at the intersection of the male and female.

I’ll embarrass myself further to reassure you that I am not lost in the anatomy of this topography, as I was oversimplifying again. The most sensuous curve of a reclining nude is the navel. That’s the apex of this scene, of course. Morath’s little red figure is perched, bending forward with comic virility, deja on the mons veneris, to be perfectly clinical.

Whether the equally soft-curved shiny hard-body is parked, idling, or teetering serendipitously onward, I believe Morath has captured the charm of physical romance with the lights on. His is a loving tribute to the fertile feminine, and a whimsical suggestion of the masculine, as an itinerant, man-made, self-armored, commuter-adventurer feeling his way into the gentle valleys of the she.

It may not be exactly the reason Del Taco chose to hang the piece, but I think a number of Morath’s paintings are similarly sexualized. Or not. I say that because it doesn’t matter really. They’re beautiful and they tell social stories, whichever way you chose to take them, with bold electric color.

And while I’m on a subject about which I know demonstrably little, I’ll say a brief something about Del Taco: the cleanest, brightest fast food restaurant I would ever recommend. The key to their ne-plus-ultra fish tacos may be the lime, or it may be that the fish is lightly deep fried. I hope you try it despite the fact that I will confess the predominant delight is their crisp raw cabbage. Marie and I now plan our eastward treks contingent upon a lunch break at Del Taco. But let’s applaud their patronage of the arts. I don’t know if Del Taco fare is Tex-Mex, or Cali-Mex, but the decor of their eateries in these parts is Old-Mex.

Evidently I predict that as a poster, Autumn by the Spanish Peaks will only grow in popularity. It may turn out that Morath will have defined Las Cumbres Espanolas in the lexicography of American pop images. How many mountains do non-MST-zone dwellers know by name, even by sight? And now with sensual affection?

4 thoughts on “Artist Stephen Morath eyes Second Base

  1. Del Taco is authentic semi-authentic Mexican it seems. Coastal fish tacos fit into that bracket marginally. And Taco Bell is inauthentic authentic Mexican-USA cheeese whip.

    And Chipotle? Well that is authentic yuppie burritodrama!

    ‘Is my burrito made with free range chicken meat and organic pinto beans?’

    ‘Si, Senyor.’

    Of course, Eric, I am no ‘authentic’ Mexican food critic at all (as you know), but at all these places just mentioned, just ask them to hold the sesos if you don’t want some sort of brain wasting disease after the meal. And try the new Taco Bell menudo offering on that chain’s menu. It’s to die for! (Remember those rats on video at the New York City Taco Bell? But never order Mexican food in the Big Apple anyway!)

    They need to open an authentic Southern Mexico diner and serve armadillo here in the Springs IMO. And corn fungus. And some decent corn tortillas without genetically modified grain from Monsanto.

  2. I grew up at the base of the Spanish Peaks in La Veta,Colorado.
    I found this card while in New Mexico. It made me homesick.
    I love it. From where this view was taken my father and his father
    before him lived on Middle Creek ranch west of La Veta.
    Every time I am driving back to Colorado from Raton New Mexico
    I cry when I see those majestic Spanish Peaks.

  3. Can you get me the phone number for the artist of the red truck and Spanish Peaks? Also, I just published a novel about this area and wondering if I can buy an ad to showcase it? Joe and the Ufo–

  4. LIES, LIES, LIES!! When I saw this, looking for a story place on google, I flipped out. But then I saw this Steven Morath dude is taking credit for something he didn’t do. My Grandpa is the original painter, and should be rightfully credited. If the picture wasn’t cut off, (Witch it is, I’ve seen the whole picture) His initials would be on it.

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