by Mel Fenson
Rick Stoner’s exhibit, held at The Great Frame Up gallery in Longmont, Colorado, showcased his current works - that revealed a daring new style. This series incorporates intriquing abstract designs - rich in color - that are integrated with collages of prints taken from an old family photo album. These paintings - rendered in gouache and mixed media - demonstrated the evolving depth of Rick’s impressive artistic abilities. His previous work, focused on still life paintings done in pastels and oils.
This series incorporates historical photographs of members of the Stoner family on his Dad’s side. The images, many of which were photographed in the early 1900s by his uncle, John Stoner - according to his grandfather - were taken from an old family photo album given to Rick by his grandfather. Rick said, “He gave me as much information as he could in terms of the people he recognized.” The album had been in Rick’s possession for a long time, but until recently, he had not paid much attention to it. When he started looking at it, he realized that, “there were some wonderful photographs in there and that they represented a precious family legacy.”
Rick’s great-great grandmother and great-great grandfather are both pictured in the album, along with his great grandfather and great grandmother, and his grandfather. They were all Stoners.
Rick decided to use some of the photographs as subjects in a series of new paintings - “as a way of reconnecting with my long deceased family members.”
In his paintings, titled “Girl# 1” and “Girl #2” - a girl is pictured, who Rick believes was his uncle’s daughter and therefore a distant cousin of his. The photographs were probably taken the early 1900’s by his uncle, John Stoner. They are a part of a series of photos that were taken on the girl’s front porch, which Rick thinks was in Kansas. In the painting “Girl #2” that pictures the girl playing the piano, Rick said he redrew the eyes and added a guitar and a keyboard motif.
In the photo used in the “Miss Seely” painting, the woman seems to be holding what may be a wand. Playing with her curious appearance, Rick painted some orbs to add to the mysticism. Other objects in the painting, such as the numbers and dollar sign refer to various personal issues Rick has encountered in his own life.
The “Snowy Owl” painting shows two boys holding a stick between them with an owl sitting on it. Rick painted a large image of an owl at the top. The boy with the dark hair on the center left is Rick’s grandfather, Earl Stoner, who was born in the late 1800s.
The Tim Burton painting was named that, after, someone said that it reminded him of a Tim Burton produced movie - because of Burton’s bizarre films, such as Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. “However,” Rick said, “The painting is actually about the music that was going through my mind, when I painted it. As I was working on this painting, different images just started popping up in the paintings as they have in other paintings I have done.”
“The mystic and ghostly qualities portrayed in this series of paintings were not all planned. Various shapes, images, figures and faces just seemed to happen and appear unexpectedly as I painted,” Rick commented.
In the “Dandelion Heaven” painting, the image was painted twice with a smaller version at the bottom. There is an unknown girl from the photo album that appears three times in this painting, along with various other family members - including his great grandfather, great grandmother, and other unknown relatives - who Rick could not identify. These people are clusted in photos at bottom of the painting. The middle part of the drawing was done in charcoal with tracing paper placed over part of the drawing. Rick noted. “It just turned out to be tree-like or bone-like - I don’t really know what happened with it.” As he painted it, he thought about the old folk song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and the idea of a grave yard came into his mind, Rick explained, “with the fence of the grave yard and the roots of the trees in vertical white areas. The flowers came from the song. The top part of the scene with a dark blue sky and stars represents heaven.” Some people at the exhibit’s opening thought the painting represented his family roots.
Rick used an acrylic gel medium to attach all the elements in the painting. It is protected with glass.
In “The Dickens Tavern” painting, Rick used stripes, which he likes because they remind him of the stripes he has seen in old photos of baseball players wearing stripped uniforms. Jennifer Engle, who provided Rick with conceptual suggestions, while he was working on the series - and set up the Exhibit at The Great Frame-Up - said this painting reminded her of the Dickens Tavern because the stripes resembled the awning in the front of the building - and that’s where the name originated. Rick said he turned the original painting upside down, to finish working it.
The spider, named “Mollie” was painted from an image in a book. The bottom was done with an airbrush. The two dark structures represent the World Trade Center’s twin towers.
Inspired by various things and happenings in his life, “Life to a Lizard” - a painting of a beautiful foot-long collared lizard was like one he encountered when he was young and on a rafting trip down the San Juan River in Cortez. He had thrown a rock to make it move, but missed and accidently killed the lizard. It had always bothered him that he had killed it. He said he painted its picture because, “Maybe I owed that lizard a life.”
“The Color Castle” - a painting of a Bee was an experiment with color. The colors and pattern in bottom part were inspired by richly colored fabric patterns designed by Eves Saint Larent that Rick saw at a fashion show in Denver.
Rick had all the old photographs he used reproduced at a print shop, then he cropped and re-sized the prints and incorporated them into his paintings. He said he had no specific intent about how to use the photos. "They just took their own paths and some of them went in ways that were completely surprising to me.”
Rick said he works on a lot of different paintings at the same time. The paintngs in the story are all done with gouache paint, which is opaque watercolor.
Originally from Cortez, Colorado, Rick has lived in Longmont for the past thirty years.
He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Colorado State University in Fort Collins and a Master of Fine Arts from Miami University in Ohio. He has taught art at the University of Denver and at Colorado State University. He currently teaches art at the Boulder County Campus of Front Range Community College in Longmont.
In addition to his exhibit at The Great Frame Up gallery, Rick's paintings are also displayed at the Abend Gallery in Denver and he has an upcoming show in October 2013.
Rick participates in national shows, such as The Governor’s Invitational, Artists of America, and The American Art Invitational. He has participated in the Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale at the annual National Western Stock Show in Denver. Rick also sells directly to collectors and accepts commissioned work. Prices for his paintings range from $1,000 to $6,000.
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