Five Questions for

This feature was published on Artslant just a few weeks before the site said goodbye. I’ve copied the original article here for safekeeping.

Lost | Seeing a rainbow at sunset inspired this painting by Randall Stoltzfus | A colorful, mysterious artwork made of many shimmering layers of circular brushstokes
Lost“. Acrylic dispersion and iridescence on polymer canvas, 37 x 60 inches.

This week we seek answers from Randall Stoltzfus

What are you trying to communicate with your work?

I am trying to make images that communicate that each of us is a part of something bigger. That we are cooperating whether we know it or not. And that light surrounds each one of us and whatever this is we are a part of.

What is an artist’s responsibility?

Personally, my responsibility as an artist is to reduce suffering. So I try to make something that is compassionate on some level. Maybe aesthetic choices can make an object compassionate? But I’ve also been trying to think of other angles on this. Most recently I’ve been working with canvases that appear traditional but are made with consciously sourced or recycled materials.

Show us the greatest thing you ever made (art or not)?

I’m an avid amateur gardener, so I get to coax some amazing things from the earth. It doesn’t always work out. I don’t make make the plants, of course. But I do get to be pretty involved in making a space for their lives to take place in, however briefly. 

Last summer I finally got a sacred lotus to bloom in my Brooklyn backyard. It’s maybe a little bit of a stretch to have that plant there, since daylight is limited by buildings on every side and it’s a little far north for lotus. It took a couple of years of learning, fending of eager raccoons, and just patience. 

But it all worked out and I even had a bloom that decided to open on the weekend. We had an opening reception for it, a garden party with coffee and bagels and some of our beautiful neighbors.

Here’s an early morning time-lapse video I made of the bloom we had the reception for:

Sacred Lotus Opens Time-lapse from Randall Stoltzfus on Vimeo.

What are you currently working on?

I’m excited about a series of paintings about rainbows that I’m working on right now. One of them is a big 10 foot diptych which is very fun but is also taking longer than expected. 

I saw several rainbows within a couple of weeks here in Brooklyn and so I tried to learn more about what I was seeing. The idea that the rainbow is happening across this vast field of round water droplets resonated for me. Maybe there was a relationship to the layers of circular brushstrokes I use to paint? I had to try it out.

Who are three artists we should know but probably don’t?

Stanley Lewis

Douglas Witmer

Alyse Rosner


Originally posted on by The Artslant Team on 4/1/2019

Art on the Walls

I’m collecting photos of my paintings installed in all the wonderful places they live, along with some photos of how they’ve been displayed temporarily for shows or photoshoots. You can browse the individual artworks in my portfolio that have been updated with installation photos using the tag: #onthewall

If you’ve got a photo of one of my paintings in it’s spot at your place (or would like one taken), send me an email at Let’s add it to this collection!

Here’s a gallery of a few of these installation photos of my artwork in (mostly) contemporary interiors:

DIY Canvas Stretchers: Step One, Plant a Tree

Simple Technology

I love that painting is simple technology. A blank artist’s canvas is so much less complicated than the screen you are reading this on right now. A painting is technology. But it’s knowable. Simple enough to fully wrap your arms around as a maker or a viewer interested in how things are made.

I hope this humane simplicity is part of everything I make here in the studio. Three years ago I had the brainstorm that I could get way closer to this goal by taking on the manufacture of my own wooden canvas stretcher bars.

Using trees that I helped plant.

Tree Poaching

When I was a teenager, my father Omar Stoltzfus decided to plant a tree farm. One of his reasons was that one particular type of tree had gotten so valuable that tree-poaching had become an actual thing in rural Virginia. The tree causing the fuss was Paulownia, and he’d heard of lumber mills paying several thousand dollars for one log. (Here’s a 2002 New York Times article confirming those numbers.) Being an ex-Amish farmer type, it’s not too surprising that it made sense to him to just plant some of those trees.

Experimenting ensued, and many pots of young paulownia trees were added to the summer watering routine that I took my turn at. A few years later this dream grew to include a nearby plot of land where there was room to let plants become trees. I remember not being thrilled with the work of clearing land. But I enjoyed learning how to run a chain saw. Also a plus was that the tree farm was in a beautiful spot, with Blue Ridge Mountain views.

Fast Forward 20 Years

Fast forward 20 some years, and I’m in my studio here in Brooklyn shopping for a new batch of stretcher bars online.  I notice a supplier listing paulownia wood as one of the available options. Remembering how valuable the wood was, I was surprised to see it being used this way. But I also remembered that the Chinese market in particular valued the wood for it’s light weight and stability. And it turned out that lots of farmers all over the world had planted these trees when the price got so high. So the wood was now inexpensive and widely available. And pretty good for making stretcher bars with.

So I called home. My father agreed to cut a few logs from the stand of trees I had helped him plant two decades ago. He thought he’d be able to get them to a lumber mill if he cut them when the ground was frozen. I’d just need to find a sawmill willing to work with a few special logs like that. With some help from Doug Lantz we found Justin Schweitzer at Willow Run Lumber who understood exactly what was needed. And so my parents loaded a chainsaw in a pickup truck and went looking for trees to cut down for my next batch of stretcher bars.

To be continued…