VOL. 6.20.2017 | Feature Rick Stevens

June 20, 2017

About Rick Stevens

Rick Stevens’s career as an artist has evolved in much the same way his paintings do. He takes his inspiration from the natural world in all its sublime mystery, then surrenders to that mystery to let the unseen forces of nature guide his hand—and his life. This intuitive process creates room for those serendipitous moments that emerge only when the chattering of the conscious mind is stilled, allowing him to proceed with his life and work in an atmosphere of quiet joy and reverence.

It’s been that way ever since he was a small child growing up in Sparta, Michigan, when he used to watch his talented father as he painted evocative landscapes that reflected the beauty of woods, rivers, and wildlife. Inspired by that process, Stevens went on to study art at college, but 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 absorb the rhythms of the life forces that commingled within the forest. The move was precipitated by his association with a spiritual teacher from India, which brought about major changes in both his way of thinking and his lifestyle, including the cultivation of practices such as meditation and yoga. These disciplines complemented his study of compatible teachings from his own cultural heritage, such as that of the transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau, which provided a way of connecting to the spiritual aspects of nature. The existential questions raised in these studies also spurred his interest in quantum physics and other such scientific theories, along with a desire to explore these worlds through his art.

Stevens thus began as a landscape painter, but the ephemeral appeal of nature eventually led him away from the realistic rendering of what he saw around him and into a realm of abstraction, where pulsating energy and lambent light create the crescendos and diminuendos of a world in continuous flux. Working both in the studio and en plein air, he draws on the realism and abstractions of the natural world to create paintings that challenge us to perceive the underlying structure of the universe within a seemingly random expression of unalloyed beauty.

Artist's Statement

My work may be seen as an open window to other realms. Its visual vocabulary has evolved from years of painting the landscape. Although I no longer consider myself a landscape painter nature continues to be my muse. I think of nature as a continuous flow of shapes and patterns of energy that has, or more precisely is, an intelligent force. Most modern day physicists will tell us that all the forces and particles in nature are one, just different ripples on the ocean of consciousness: a Unified Field.

While acknowledging a debt to the abstract expressionists I don’t consider myself ‘of that school’. That movement tended to focus our attention upon the work as a thing in itself, identified with the art-process. While I wish to stay true to the modernist idea of process-oriented art, behind my shapes and colors on the picture surface there is always another realm, another order of meaning, however abstract that meaning may be.

A sense of structure is important to me, but I avoid strong divisions. I require a certain ‘fluidity’ where everything is flowing into the next thing. My compositions are infused with an overall light that is all-inclusive. This doesn’t allow anything to be read as separate from the whole. There is diversity, just like in the natural world, but there is an underlying unity that is apparent. I sometimes use preliminary sketches as beginning compositions for paintings and pastels. Much of my process is improvised, allowing the work to evolve organically.