The artists-X-change boX project

This new collaboration is something that matters to me that came out of the past spring and summer with all its unknown. It’s called artists-X-change. And it has just now become something that you can participate in. 

The BoX Project by artists X change with print by Randall Stoltzfus opt
One of 20 unique curated box sets donated to the Brooklyn Arts Council by artists-X-change

A Collective

Artists-x-change was set up by its core members as a collective. Loosely held. But with the clear goal of figuring out a way to help other artists in need.

The idea behind our first foray, called the BoX Project, is simple. 

10 artists each donated 10 artworks. The only requirement was a maximum size of 5 by 7 inches. From this pool of 100 artworks, a set of 20 special boxes were curated. No two are the same. Each contains 5 artworks. And each is to be used as a special gift in return for an act of charity on behalf of other artists.

Brooklyn Arts Council

For this first project, we chose a partner organization to work with that we felt would do a better job of distributing resources than we could do ourselves. That partner organization is Brooklyn Arts Council, a local pillar of support in the place I call home. It is also an organization I have benefitted from personally though classes, portfolio reviews with curators, and exposure in times when that was scarce.

Real Gift Giving

As it is with real gift giving, there is some unknown here. The artists have made their gifts to the project knowing precious little about what it would become. Experienced artists grow comfortable with this. Creativity itself is an uncertain gift. Unusually, here that uncertainty is passed along to the collector as well, since there is something unknown about what will be received.  I’m hoping that this spirit of real gift-giving will continue full circle, bringing this project a special energy of it’s own.

You can learn more about the print I’ve donated to the project here: Thicket Print for the BoX Project

To learn more about the box project, visit

Brooklyn Arts Council has posted about the project here:

Omega Skylight Time Lapse

After working on Omega for three years, I got pretty familiar with seeing the painting in my skylit Brooklyn studio. So when the time to ship the painting out for it’s first showing came, I felt a little anxiety about how it would read in a different space, with different lighting, and to different eyes.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve felt this way. One of the things that helps me quiet this feeling of uncertainty is good documentation. Usually this means taking the best photos I can afford of the artwork. But photographing Omega was challenging, both because of it’s size, and because of how much some very subtle changes in near black tones contribute to the drawing and meaning of the image. On top of that, every documentation photograph is a compromise on the way a painting is experienced in real life. Especially when seen under living, breathing natural light.

As an experiment, I decided to try video to document this painting.

Of my several attempts, this time lapse recording of the painting hanging in the studio on a October day comes closest to communicating how I felt about seeing the painting there. The flickering light in the video comes from fall clouds passing overhead. Seeing the video is obviously still not the same as visiting the painting in real life. But for me it is a nice reminder of what having the painting in the studio was like.

Solo Exhibit: Widening

November 14, 2019 – January 12, 2020
Reception: Thursday, November 14, 5 – 8 pm

30 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014

Tel. 212-924-2025

The paintings Rainmaker, Through, Held, and the 8 by 10 foot painting Omega hang at Blank Space Gallery for Randall Stoltzfus' 2019 solo exhibit Widening
Left to right: Rainmaker, Through, Held, and the 8 by 10 foot diptych Omega hang at Blank Space in NYC

From the press release:

Widening represents a new chapter in Randall Stoltzfus’ painting. Originally trained as a landscape artist, Stoltzfus turned towards abstraction in the early 2000s as a way of engaging more directly with light as a subject. These early works, which were steeped in both a personal and historical relationship to his Mennonite upbringing, were often dark and monochromatic and built upon the polarity of light and shadow and complementary colors. As he developed his distinctive style of organic abstraction, which uses thousands of hand painted circles to build the larger image, his palette expanded and the landscapes and natural references of his earlier work began to fall further into the background. For Stoltzfus there are now two relationships at work in his paintings: a poetic relationship to the physical subject and a direct relationship the sensation of light itself.
While his work is rooted in tradition and a deep understanding of art history, his technique lends itself to a multiplicity of readings that are subjective to the viewer. Stoltzfus likens his style to “pulling focus” wherein the subject he is capturing is diffused to a point beyond direct representation and is rendered as halos of refracted light. In this, there is a historical relationship with the impressionist masters and pointillism in that he is painting a psychical depiction of the world. But, where the impressionists sought to convey a scene through blocks of color Stoltzfus renders his building blocks empty; rings of light that have no center and the resulting marks are free to play off each other and with the viewer’s eye. By doing this, not only does he open his work up for interpretation but he allows the viewer to see how each piece is constructed as the rings are stacked from the background to the foreground leaving a visible history of each mark made.

For Widening, Stoltzfus has created compositions that explode from within; bursts of light radiate from the center of the canvas and dissipate towards the edges. Omega, his largest work in two decades, takes the physical composition of a rainbow as its inspiration and expands the palette to encompass the visible spectrum. Each transition between the eight color bands is host to hundreds of minor movements built of his signature rings and the composition furthers the arc of a rainbow into a larger circle encompassing the shadowy silhouette of a tree. The light comes from behind the shadow but is not obscured by it; instead it is transformed into something larger and more vibrant than would have been visible otherwise. As Stoltzfus put it himself in a recent interview, “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.”

20-21 @ CityFolk Gallery

Blue and Gold | This ultramarine blue and gold leaf painting is composed many hand painted circles evocative of a summer night | The oil painting titled Vigil by Randall Stoltzfus on studio wall
“Vigil” hangs on white brick wall in the Brooklyn studio

I’m happy to announce a group exhibit with CityFolk Gallery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Titled 20 -21, this is the gallery’s focus exhibit for artists who joined the gallery this year, and a preview of the 2020-21 season.

My connection with this show is special. This part of Pennsylvania is where one part of my family is from; kinship runs deep. So showing there is kind of like going home. I’m excited to share what I’ve been working on here in Brooklyn with my friends and family in this historic American city.

CityFolk Gallery is located in the heart of Lancaster’s vibrant gallery row. I’ll be present at the gallery on Saturday, October 5th from 11AM-4PM as part of the fall Lancaster Artwalk. This free, self-guided art celebration of the downtown galleries includes 30-plus venues. So you are coming from a little farther away, there will be plenty to see and do. If you are in the area, stop by and say hello.

CityFolk Gallery
146 North Prince Street
Lancaster, PA 17603

phone: 717.393.8807

Open Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-5pm
Open First Fridays: 10am-9pm

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…

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