“Dancing in Paradox,” Rick Stevens’s new show of oil paintings at Hunter Kirkland Contemporary that opens on June 22, is about the connectedness of all things. “One thing flows into the next thing, which flows into the next,” says Stevens, who is celebrating his 13th solo show at the gallery.
For Stevens, paintings emerge from his immersion with nature. He sometimes takes a portable easel into quiet forested areas, but lately he’s been finding that images captured on his phone’s camera provide just the right visual imagery to spark dynamic new works.
“I love beautiful landscapes, and I’m trying to express the ineffable,” he explains.
While oil is the primary medium in his recent paintings, Stevens has been adding burlap and sand to some of his works. “They create depth and texture while they’re on the surface, which is a wonderful expression of opposites,” he says.
Gold leaf is also one of Stevens’s special ingredients. “There’s gold leaf in most of my paintings,” he explains. “It adds a spiritual dimension to the work and offers a different iridescence.”
A native of the Midwest who grew up in Michigan watching his father paint evocative landscapes that reflected the beauty of woods, rivers and wildlife, Stevens studied art at college but says his most intense education was provided by the woods themselves.
Shortly after graduation, he retreated to an isolated cabin in northern Michigan for a year to meditate and develop a close connection with the natural world around him.
While Stevens’s career began as a landscape painter, the ephemeral appeal of nature eventually led him away from realistically rendering what he saw around him and into abstraction.
Working both in the studio and en plein air, he draws on both the realism and abstractions of the natural world. “I want to create paintings that challenge us to perceive the underlying structure of the universe within a seemingly random expression of unalloyed beauty,” he says.