The World’s Wonders, Reimagined

Topher Straus creates artworks that vividly, dramatically reimagine how we see the wonders of our world. 

His paintings defy easy labels, venturing beyond the familiar artistic terms that first might come to mind upon seeing them. Impressionist? Yes, insofar as he portrays places and landmarks in ways that are richly interpretive yet instantly recognizable. Pop? Psychedelic? Of course they are, as their often bright colors and sensuously flowing lines might suggest.

But even more accurate adjectives vault Straus’s creations beyond such common categories. Call them Visionary, for they enable us to witness even familiar subjects as if we’re seeing their very essence for the first time. Or consider them Revolutionary, since Straus uses advanced technology and materials to create them.

The most accurate label of all for Topher Straus’s art, however, might well be Wondrous. Whether he’s portraying America’s National Park landscapes, a grove of aspen trees, Rocky Mountain ski slopes, a Hawaiian sunset, or dawn over Jerusalem’s Old City, Straus succeeds at entirely reimagining his subjects, so much so that we feel uncannily as if we’re viewing them for the very first time, transporting us back to a state of childlike wonder. “This world is so vast, so amazing,” says the artist, “that I want to share that sense of wonder with everyone.

Artist Topher Straus 

A Life Steeped in the Arts — and Philanthropy

Today, Topher Straus lives and works in the foothills above Denver, Colorado, amidst the wilderness that first inspired his colorful, transformative artworks. A fifth-generation Coloradan, he grew up also surrounded by masterworks of contemporary art, most notably in the home of his grandmother, Florene May Schoenborn. A friend of Pablo Picasso’s, she assembled what was considered the finest collection of early works by Henri Matisse outside those held in Russia. She later donated many pieces in her collection to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which now permanently features them in the Florene May Schoenborn Gallery. But Straus remembers seeing them up close and personal as a boy, and they made a big impression. “You could say that the vibrant colors and flowing lines of my art found early inspiration in Matisse’s work,” he says. 

His grandmother’s philanthropy also instilled in Topher a dedication to giving back. He always aims to help heal the world through his work, contributing to such as causes as environmental action, food insecurity, and encouraging creativity in young people. “Since childhood,” he says, “I’ve always been taught that helping others is what truly gives meaning to your life.”

Straus’s first aesthetic pursuits focused on another medium: cinema. He graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Film Art and then went to work for Academy Award-winning director Robert Altman, spending a decade in Hollywood and personally directing several documentaries. “Altman did things unconventionally, explored emerging technology, took risks, and was unafraid of failure,” Straus says. “He taught me to be a maverick.” It was a lesson well learned.

From California, Straus moved to the South Island of New Zealand, where he welcomed the birth of his son Oliver. The country’s unspoiled natural landscape continued to inspire and deepen his love of the outdoors, and he lived there for almost 8 years. He launched a production company specializing in commercial advertising and then transitioned into the video game industry, a shift that eventually led him to return to Colorado and even do game development for Apple and Entertainment Arts. “That kind of work brought me in touch with technology’s artistic side,” he says. “We now live in a world surrounded by it. You can either embrace technology or ignore it. And I choose to embrace it.”

“Living Inside” a New Medium

In embracing technology, Straus began almost a decade ago to develop a new process for creating art using all the digital tools at his disposal. He starts with photographs he takes on his travels, both across the United States and around the globe, focusing on such subjects as America’s National Parks, iconic landscapes, and the world’s great cities.

Having selected images that speak to his soul, Straus puts on his Apple Vision Pro goggles that enable him to enter the world of the paintings he creates. “When I make my paintings,” he says with his ever-boyish enthusiasm, “I live inside them.” Fully immersed in an image, he then gradually, joyously transforms it using his suite of digital painting tools, shaping and coloring it to express the scene’s very essence as he himself sees it.

Next, he deploys the high-tech process of “sublimation,” which enables him to transform his digital creation into a real-world artwork made by fusing the image to an imperishable, glossy polymer coating on a panel of aluminum alloy. The luminous image that results — which Straus offers in a select range of sizes and in strictly limited editions — enables light to reflect off the metal, endowing each finished painting with extraordinarily vibrant richness. "I like to imagine,” says Topher Straus, “that, if Henri Matisse had been given access to such technology, this is what he might be doing.”

Exploring and Celebrating the World — and Its People

Straus’s first solo exhibition, “The Parks,” debuted in Denver in 2018 and proved an instant success. That led to representation by major galleries across the United States. It also brought such special commissions as an invitation from the U.S. Department of the Interior to permanently display his painting Grand Teton National Park in that park’s Jenny Lake Visitor Center. He devotedly, happily continues working on his goal of creating artworks celebrating every one of America’s 63 National Parks, with plans to publish a book of them once the project has been completed. “National Parks are among our country’s greatest assets,” he says, “For many people, visiting one is an iconic, cinematic moment of life. In my paintings, I want to capture that feeling.”

Straus is also expanding his scope to capture unique visions of the world’s other iconic places, from the coastlines of Maui to the street markets of southeast Asia. “Travel is a transformative experience for me.” More and more, he’s also been exploring the rich diversity of human cultures.

“Not surprisingly,” concludes Topher Straus, “the world around me — humanity in all its diversity and the incredible tapestry of landscapes — offers the richest and most meaningful subject matter of all for art. It’s like a playground of endless inspiration. Each brushstroke, each pixel, is my attempt to capture the vibrant essence of existence itself. And let me tell you, it’s a colorful journey — one that’s as rich and diverse as the very world I’m portraying. Art isn’t just about what you see — it’s about what you feel, what you experience, and what you bring to the canvas — or in my case, the aluminum. Creating art is a dance between imagination and reality, and I’m just grateful to be part of it.”