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.
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:
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.
“Sightline”. Acrylic dispersion on polymer canvas, 60 x 96 inches.
“Corona”. Acrylic dispersion with gold leaf on recycle polymer canvas, 48 by 60 inches
“Parapet”. Acrylic dispersion on polymer canvas, 32 x 40 inches.
Randall Stoltzfus at work on a new painting in his studio in Brooklyn
Who are three artists we should know but probably don’t?
I made a special miniature, reversed and adapted version of my new “Lost Rainbow” print just so I could send it into this year’s edition of Postcards from the Edge. Which means that someone with sharp eyes will take it home for $85 and support a good cause to boot. But even if the little rainbow I made stays lost, they’ll wind up with something fantastic; there’s a lot of beautiful stuff in this fundraiser.
Postcards From the Edge offers a rare opportunity to acquire original, postcard-sized artwork from internationally renowned and emerging artists for only $85 each. Offered on a first-come, first-served basis, over 1400 works are exhibited anonymously, and the identity of the artist is revealed only after the work is purchased. With the playing field leveled, all participants can take home a piece by a famous artist, or one who’s just making their debut in the art world. Nonetheless, collectors walk away with something beautiful, a piece of art they love!