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David P. Stephens

Painter of Maritime Life

Artist's Statement Continued


Thus far I have had the opportunity to explore a variety of personal and employment related experiences. I worked as an assistant foreman at a logging camp in the Cape Breton Highlands. I served as a marine engineer aboard H.M.C.S. Athabaskan, followed by a period as a marine rigger at H.M.C. Dockyard, Halifax. I have pumped gas, changed truck tires, repaired cars, cooked pizzas, taught swimming lessons, worked on an oyster farm and more. I have lived in communities as diverse as Labrador City, Labrador, Dawson Creek, B.C., Halifax, N.S. and have travelled extensively. Throughout the journey my impulse to paint has remained the one constant.

Having flexed my artistic muscles to some degree, I returned to Cape Breton in 1988 where I settled in the Acadian fishing village of Cheticamp. By coincidence, or fate, my old friend Lorne Reid also settled here at this time. Utilizing our shared interests in art as a medium for exploration, Lorne and I began the process of visiting our childhood years. After previously struggling to seek new directions, we began anew, from a child-centred perspective, with simplified, easy flowing forms, filled with pure unmodulated colours. We also collected the works of many of the local "folk artists" and thus began the first such artist-run gallery in Cape Breton. "Reid's Folk Art Gallery" was described by Halifax Chronicle-Herald Arts writer Elissa Barnard as "an airy second-floor room of play, innovation and unfettered colour". It was also at this time that Lorne and I, together with our friend Chris Huntington, founded the "Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival and Picnic", an intimate gathering which has since grown to its present status as a world-class festival.

Sadly, my good friend and fellow-artist Lorne Reid passed away in 1991, the victim of cancer. He spent his final days at his parents home in Dominion, watching cartoons, smiling, and laughing - saying few words. Lorne was a complicated individual who helped me and others immensely. Losing him was like losing a brother. I miss you Lorne.

 

Lorne Reid, Dominion, Cape Breton Island. (1953-1991).

Taken in my Cheticamp studio, summer of 1990, by Sydney photographer Warren Gordon, MPA. This natural image of Lorne surrounded by his work was featured in Warren's book, Cape Breton Portfolio, Steel Town Publishing, Sydney, N.S. 1991.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1997 Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival (photo at right).

That's me on the left hamming it up for the camera with my friend famous comedian Ron James .

In Some Thoughts on Painting as an Artistic Process my mentor, Chris Huntington, an established painter, art dealer, curator, and collector, states that "art is an illusion. It is made up of the millions of little pieces of the history of art along with one person's life experiences". Thus far my numerous life experiences have found their place amongst those million or so "little pieces of the history of art" - the result being the varied illusions I am proud to call my own. These illusions have been the recipients of such labels as folk, post modern, cerebral, intuitive and fine. Over the years I have learned to ignore the Western world's need to apply a neat label to all manner of culture and invention. I have come to view culture as an open-ended system, full of exciting and boundless possibilities for variance and diversity. Although my work clearly and proudly reflects specific historical and cultural influences, the strength of my individual vision, that is, the actual art making process, has remained the omnipresent source of inspiration and drive. The process lives on in the sharing of the endeavour. The audience is thus a vital aspect in my relentless need to communicate. I am just a painter.


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