BRIAN KEITH STEPHENS
"How to capture the past, present and future at the same time; this is at the center of my work as an artist and as a father, son, friend and lover. As we navigating our daily lives, we must face thoughts, anxieties, joys and emotions from all three of these tenses, and often at the same time. Seemingly opposite emotions -- lust, hatred, desire, love, pride, inhibition -- exists simultaneously between these moments in time. For some of us, some emotions outweigh others, grabbing our attention and transfixing our minds, sometimes taking over the way we live and breathe. For myself, the emotions that occupy my mind and capture my energy are that of love, desire, and the fear of hurt or disappointment. And so, at the center of my work are these forceful emotions--they guide my hand to paint and my heart and mind to live. My work explores the emotions that guide us, that pull us and push is and ultimately define who we are, in relation to others and to ourselves.
Lately, what I have been most interested in capturing is how alternative perceptions of one’s identity can change the effect these daily emotions. My work speaks to this in two mediums: oil paintings and collage/installation. With the first medium, I do this primarily through mystical imagery juxtaposed with figurative technique. I am using oil paints to create this mystical alter-reality where the human is the animal and the animal is the human.
Growing up in Connecticut, I have always found animals as a vessel for depicting human emotion; I believe in many ways animals are capable of expressing human emotions is a way that is both understandable and mysterious and alluring. Like animals, we are all wild and fearful, but unlike animals, we have to live in this world of rules and normativity. My desires, my emotions, are not always able to fit in the place and society I live, but in my art, I can find a place for those outliers to join forces.
I am captivated by the power of my own emotions, the playful desires and the sometimes dangerous energy that is the essence of the human spirit. We love, we hurt, we laugh and we cry -- it’s this fantastic and sometimes frightful spectrum. The ‘contemporary soldier’, a motif represented in my work through oil on canvas, is my own conception of this power we have to love and to hurt, to build and to break. For me the contemporary soldier is child freed from the gaze of the parent or society, it is the spirit, freed. But also faced with the challenge of the future, even as it moves freely from its past.
The other side of my work involves mixed media and collage. For me, collage is a way to breakdown the space in my life between the emotions of love and hate, and between objects that symbolize these polar emotions. Often my collage works carry motifs of feminine, romantic objects, belong perhaps to figures in my life that have held the role of lover, wife, mother, friend. Together, these notes, clothes, fabrics and photos create a kind of alter of admiration for the women in my life who I have loved, have lost and also have gained. The female identity is central in these works; central because so much of that identity is defined by objects. Objects and their associations create myths, and these myths in turn create these identities. Now in the world, the feminine identify is a source of chaos and socio-political unrest. Her manner of clothing herself, her manner of living, her manner of using her body--all these things have become nationally and globally contested issues. With these collages, I use motifs of nostalgia and history, mixed with personal history to create stories, identities with collaged pasts of the mysterious, eternally captivating famine sex. I believe that as humans, no matter the epoch, have always held this mysterious and wondrous fascination with women. While I play a lot with nostalgia, these collages also speak to the irrelevance of time, and the universality of the female sex. Through installation and collage there is a breaking down and rebuilding of this love of the complex and mysterious human relationships that surround me around me.
At the center of my work and life are these fascinations with myth, the spectrum of human passion, our kinship to the spirit of the wild animal, and challenge of balancing the real with the fanciful. We must balance all of this while also navigating the spectrum of time, the web of past, present and future. My art has been and continues to be my outlet for exploring these themes and conjuring up new ones."
- Brian Keith Stephens