Wednesday, May 27, 2020

FULL CIRCLE: The New Artwork of Russell Stephenson

By Gabriel Diego Delgado

San Antonio artist, Russell Stephenson showcases a world beyond our own, a metaphysical one – of infinite depth and detail, three dimensional illusions of floating carved and gouged abstractions.

In viewing his work, I am reminded of theologian, philosopher and scholar, Henry Corbin (1903-1978).

The Hermetic Library states, “Corbin’s life was devoted to the struggle to free the religious imagination from fundamentalisms of every kind. His work marks a watershed in our understanding of the religions of the West and makes a profound contribution to the study of the place of the imagination in human life… Imaginative Consciousness, Cognitive Imagination.”

Russell Stephenson uses art as a coded visual language for abstract thought, a notion that goes beyond our current understandings of religion, meditative practice, and spirituality.

Stephenson transports us to the evanescent planes that linger somewhere in the inner or outer dimensions. In the abyss, these ephemeral and heavenly bodies, decreed by elements of abstract realism images exist… somewhere… out there… beyond the limits of day to day mundanity, toward a new understanding of spiritual healing and a definitive releasement of mental anguish.

His new circular paintings, reminiscent of flowers, or mandalas are subject to a certain subconscious freedom.  There beyond the “petals”, the patterns, and the organic flow are hints of preserved relics of religious academia, and of historically preached divinations. Oil paintings reveal what lies beyond the origins of the subconscious. Stephenson gives visual birth to these ancient origins.  Paintings for post-meditation for a new kind of ‘cognitive imagination’.

I am also inspired by Biology…the microscope…Microcosms…I wanted to make some work responding to the idea of “coming full circle”, a force of “back where we started”, “under the microscope”, says Stephenson

But these paintings are also delicate and fragile with very intricate details, thus the microcosm… there is endless exploration for me in them.”

Endless indeed, these images are not intended to be interpreted by what we see and understand but are meditative evidences to where the mind’s eye needs to go; a place judged not by the allocates of daily living at the holy gates or the rejected principles for clean living, but to an undefined ‘nirvana-like bliss’; or as Henry Corbin describes as the “Land of no-where.”

Circuit” a new spiral and circular painting act as a sort of visual guide, starting us out at the physical cosmos and an illuminated path that transcends us to a new level in the spiritual universe; swirling in its own cosmos- a circuit to electrify our subconsciousness.

I constructed my own easel that rotates in order to make these,” he adds.

“The paintings act as this manifestation of pure thought…transformation of the mediums into something precious, or valuable, into the physical representations of the ephemeral or transient.  The paintings act as mediums, or links, to this contemplative meditational state in which the work is ultimately made.  Both as a transportation device, and as evidence-based reliquaries of that alternative reality,” says Stephenson.

“Flora”, a 24” x 24”, an oil on panel painting makes my mind perceive the painting as a blooming flower, but alas, nothing in this world is that easy. Closer analysis reveals so much more. Floral radiance is achieved through layers of paint, under-painting, and glazes gouged, scrapped, and pulled. Art History shows us this technique can be achieved through alchemic processes using gold leaf, however, Stephenson uses none.   That is what reflects his craft – his ability to create these auras of illumination through meditative art process-painting.

“In my paintings I am avoiding 'graven-images', I focus more on the transient, the light, the energy, and the minute spaces in-between that science is starting to discover as the almost physical fabric that binds the two worlds together and acts as a link between the two,” Stephenson states.

Although the newer paintings are small in physical space, this manifestation of raw energy is beyond the limits of the composition. YES!! They lead us to the eternal after-world of interplanetary voids.

As we experience regression and stalled passage back to reality, Stephenson really does capture a visual element of Zoroastrianism: "be among those who renew the make the world progress towards perfection.” 

Stephenson might not be renewing the world in which we live, but he is doing so much more in this new body of artwork, he is making the ‘imaginary world’ of our collective cognitive consciousness a perfect place to meditate on spiritual level void of the theistic limitations of religion; to arrive at these celestial divinations of alternate realities.

Russell Stephenson was born in Abilene, TX in 1973. He has lived most of his life in West and Southwest Texas, and has been inherently influenced by the rugged landscape, and shallow color palettes. Vacations and road trips led him to the High Deserts and Rocky Mountains of New Mexico and Colorado which influenced his capacity for grand themes and monumental subject matter. Soon after public schools, he received a full tuition scholarship to the art Institute of Seattle in Washington where he studied visual communications.
He left school to pursue his own interests in painting and drawing only to return to school at The Pacific NW College of Art in Portland, OR. There he concentrated his studies in sculpture and graduated with his BFA in 2001.
After his undergraduate studies he returned to Texas and attended Graduate school at The University of Texas in San Antonio. Russell graduated in 2006 with an MFA in Printmaking.





About the author:

Mr. Delgado has held three museum administrative positions which includes two Curator of Exhibitions roles, two gallery directorships and have written and published essays and criticisms on Kenneth Noland, Cleve Gray, Alex Katz, Roberto Matta, among many others.
His writings, critiques, and essays can be found on various art websites like, Contemporary Texas magazine, Art Style magazine, The Dominion Magazine, and Wall Street International Magazine; as well as over 20 other print and online platforms.
While working as the Project Manager of Research and Development for a Smithsonian affiliate, he educated himself on institutional donor-ship and financial sustainability.
Having passed numerous courses offered by the FAIC / AIC (Foundation for the American Institute of Conservation / American Institute of Conservation) he is also well versed in proper care for fine art. Mr. Delgado is a graduate of the International Society of Appraisers coursework reflective of the USPAP requirements, he has gained a unique understanding of the fine art appraisal industry.
He has worked with both the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and the IMLS ( Institute of Museum and Library Services) as a Field Grant Reviewer, and help facilitate grant funding opportunities for institutional federal funding.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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A Virtual Extravaganza featuring Events, Readings, and Performances by Artists of Queer|Art|Mentorship 
Queer|Art|Pride 2020 convenes a diverse network of artists, performers, writers, and creatives to offer an extravaganza of public programs taking place online and over Zoom every Monday evening throughout the entire month of June.

The Queer|Art|Pride Book & Print Fair remains the centerpiece of Queer|Art|Pride and has been re-conceived this year as a digital marketplace open for the entire month of June, with work available for sale by 30+ participating artists—activated through our biweekly SHOW N’ TELL series.

Monday, June 1
Opening of the Queer|Art|Pride Book & Print Fair Digital Marketplace (June 1-30)
  • 8pm-9pm EST |  Book & Print Fair SHOW ‘N TELL
  • 9pm-12am EST | Queer|Art|Pride **KICK-OFF PARTY**
    with Miss Hot Girl Bijoux and The Illustrious Blacks
Monday, June 8
  • 8pm-9pm EST | "THIS USED TO BE GAY!"
    with Moe Angelos
  • 9pm-10:30pm EST | Queer|Art|Pride DRINK 'N DRAW
Monday, June 15
  • 8pm-9pm EST | Book & Print Fair SHOW ‘N TELL
  • 9pm-10:30pm | EST Queer|Art|Pride KARAOKE NIGHT
Monday, June 22
  • 8pm-9pm EST | Queer|Art|Film Club:
    Bazeera Khan presents PAKEEZAH
  • 9pm-10:30pm EST | Queer|Art|Pride DRINK 'N DRAW
Monday, June 29
  • 8pm-9pm EST | Book & Print Fair SHOW ‘N TELL
  • 9pm-10:30pm EST | Queer|Art|Pride KARAOKE NIGHT

A full itinerary follows! 
Queer|Art|Pride Book & Print Fair
Digital Marketplace of Works by 30+ QAM Artists
Monday, June 1st–Tuesday, June 30th
This year, Queer|Art is transforming its Queer|Art|Pride Book & Print Fair into a digital marketplace, featured on our website for the entire month of June. Curated in the spirit of abundance, the marketplace will feature an incredible diversity of works for perusal and purchase, including (but not limited to) artist books, novels, zines, poetry chapbooks, drawings, photographs, watercolors, garments, collages, and prints. 100% of sales benefit the artists.

Participating artists include: Marco DaSilva, Pamela Sneed, Eames Armstrong, Jibz Cameron, Liz Collins, Daniel Chew, Anthony Rosado, Lola Flash, Candystore, Olaiya Olayemi, Mariá José Maldonado, Felli Maynard, Ella Boureau, Natalie Tsui, Kerry Downey, Jeanne Vaccaro, Nicole Goodwin, Mylo Mendez, Heather Lynn Johnson, Camilo Godoy, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, Brendan Williams-Childs, Sarah Creagen, Christina Quintana (CQ), Virgil B/G Taylor, Cristóbal Guerra, Eva Peskin & Justine Williams, Ripley Soprano, Anna Campbell, Sarah Sanders, Brian Gonzalez, Neil Goldberg, and Sarah Schulman. 
The online marketplace will be accompanied by our live Book & Print Fair SHOW 'N TELL series, taking place over Zoom on Mondays, June 1st, 15th, and 29th from 8-9 pm EST. Artists participating in the digital marketplace will read excerpts of their works, offer a show ‘n tell of what they have for sale, and more. RSVP here!
Monday Night Parties
A Pride Kick-Off, Karaoke Nights, and Drink & Draws!
Queer|Art|Pride Kick-Off Party
Monday, June 1 – 9pm-12am
Drink 'n Draws
Mondays, June 8 & 22 – 9pm-10:30pm
Karaoke Nights
Mondays, June 15 & 29 – 9pm-10:30pm
Even amid uncertain times, Queer|Art remains dedicated to creating space for fun, informal community building events. The Queer|Art|Pride Kick-Off Party (Monday, June 1st at 9pm-12am) includes rousing DJ sets and performances from Miss Hot Girl Bijoux, New Orleans-based DJ; and The Illustrious Blacks, Neo Afro Futuristic Psychedelic Surrealistic Hippy performance duo.
On Monday, June 8th & 22nd at 9pm-10:30pm, Queer|Art|Mentorship alumni will be hosting virtual Drink 'n Draw sessions, featuring striking poses from guest models, artists Olaiya Olayemi, Felli Maynard, Brian Gonzalez, and Aldrin Valdez. The fun continues on Monday, June 15th & 29th at 9pm-10:30pm with Karaoke Nights! Join an eclectic mix of Queer|Art|Mentorship alums as they host fun, unbridled virtual karaoke sessions open to everyone looking to put their pent up energy to good use through the art of song.

RSVP here!
"This Used to Be Gay!"
with Moe Angelos
”This Used To Be Gay!” with Moe Angelos
Monday, June 8th – 8pm-9pm
On the heels of Lower East Side History Month, theater artist, charismatic raconteur, and Multi-year Queer|Art Mentor Moe Angelos (of The Five Lesbian Brothers and The Builders Association) is leading a virtual tour of the places that “used to be gay” in the East Village and the historic Lower East Side. Having seen her beloved gay-borhood go through many changes over the years, Moe will lead participants through sites of former discos, clubs, bathhouses, theaters, galleries, and oh-so-many bars that once proliferated the streets.

RSVP here!
Moe Angelos is one of The Five Lesbian Brothers, who have written, performed, and published six plays. She has collaborated with the Builders Association as a performer and writer since 2000. She has been involved with the WOW Café for many years and has appeared in the work of many downtown luminaries including Carmelita Tropicana, Anne Bogart, Holly Hughes, and The Ridiculous Theatrical Company.⁣
Image credits: 1. Queer|Art|Pride Book & Print Fair Graphic by Virgil B/G Taylor; 2. Queer|Art|Pride Book & Print Fair Graphic by Andrius Alvarez-Backus; 3. Nicole Goodwin, image courtesy of the artist  4. The Illustrious Blacks by Monstah Black; 5Ripley Soprano by Rio Sofia; 6. Candystore, image by Lia Clay for the 2018 Queer|Art Community Portrait Project 7The Illustrious Blacks by Eric McNatt; 8. Moe Angelos, image courtesy of the artist

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