Peter D. Stephens (b. 1958), Inness 07–01, 1991; ink, shellac, mixed media on paper, 45 x 62 3/8 inches; frame: 49 x 67 inches; Gift of Susan and Clayton Peimer, 2017
Peter Stephens has appropriated and reinterpreted landscape imagery in paintings and photographs that pay homage to concepts of the picturesque, while utilizing non-traditional methods or materials to bring those concepts into our current era. On the one hand, he emphasizes the vast contrasts that exist between the 19th-century idealization of nature’s awe and beauty and later realities of industrialization, pollution, and disillusion. On the other hand, he uses a contemporary language of markmaking and layering of shellac that borrows from Leonardo DaVinci’s sfumato (smoky) technique of oil painting, in which transparent layers of paint are built up to create depth and volume convincingly in a softly shadowed realism. Inness 07–01 has a photo-pictorialist diffusion of imagery, benefitting from the artist’s experiments with vintage photography methods.
Stephens’ philosophical reflection on artmaking and meaning is constantly evolving as he pays homage to past masters of art and sources subjects and techniques from the scientific realm. Represented by the Nina Freudenheim Gallery in Buffalo, Stephens has shown his work across the U.S. and in Toronto. He earned a B.F.A. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Universita di Siena, Italy.—NW