J.R. Mooney Galleries of Fine Art:
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Thursday, September 18, 2014
The Kingdom of................Russell Stephenson
Aspects of the Buddhist Dhammapada say, “Death can be a teacher. Only in facing death, those of loved ones and our own, can we be free from the fear of it and learn the lessons it has to teach about life.”
I think of this quote when I look at the body of artwork Russell Stephenson executed after his near fatal motorcycle accident in the Texas Hill Country in May of 2013. With every rib broken, two punctured lung sacs, and a severely separated right shoulder, Stephenson had many months or recuperation ahead.
As a right handed artist, the unfortunate circumstances did not keep him from painting for long. With small yet painful excursions into the studio, the teacher became the student; learning patience as he re-taught himself precision and control, exploring ambidextrous exercises while learning to paint left-handed.
During this recovery time Stephenson worked his way up from small sketches and paintings, then to medium and eventually working on large artworks; until he was formulating his grandiose masterpieces, some measuring 84” wide. Here, alone in the studio with his thoughts, his vision and unforeseen trauma, Stephenson would struggle with extreme pain; making visual treasures that he brought into this world from the multifaceted suffering.
The aesthetic, appearance, statement and underlying resonance in this series of artworks could not of been anything else but what they were -- conceptual artistic epiphanies that gracefully captured relentless notions of the creation of the universe, religion and the monotheistic qualities of the Big Bang theory.
“Kingdom Come”, 36” x 84” oil on wood panel painting is an impactful tribute to these trying times. One of only a few this size, “Kingdom Come” engulfs the viewer in a metaphoric wave of quasi- religious adumbrate. Part landscape, part Lascaux cave painting, part universal truth, “Kingdom Come” radiates an energy similar to an unexplored nebula, a faraway galaxy, or an exploding star; while visually grounding the audiences’ experience in earth tones- bring the evolving mystery closer to earth. Ignoring the separation of the heavens from the earth, light and dark, movement and stagnation, scars and healings all move, work and play within the pictorial field; giving rise to a language that all can understand. Conceived out of suffering; born out of pain, and thrived out of love.