The Kimura Gallery, on the second floor of the atrium part of the University of Alaska Fine Arts Building, is currently hosting a show of drawings by Mississippi narrative artist, Steve Shepard. The show went up on August 25, and will stay on the walls until September 26. It is called Swampwader Politics and Other Gestures.
The drawings on the wall are quite vivid in their directness. The simplicity of the statements the artist uses to narrate the stories and icons in the drawings stand in contrast to the graphic nuances in some of the startling images themselves.
Here's how Steve Shepard describes his art:
Born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1955, I have spent most of my life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I began fishing, beachcombing, sailing and operating a small motorboat when I was eight. And I have been exploring and studying the coast ever since.
I speak a visionary language of deep ecology inspired by the natural history of the northern Gulf of Mexico and its disintegration at the hands of developers (Republicans) investing in sprawling overpopulation.
In pursuit of complexity, I favor busy frenetic compositions with an attention to spontaneous absurdity. Dynamic shifts in perspective and horizon and the abandonment of linear perspective all are driven by my need for impressions of dizzy flight over inner vistas. I harmonize the surface with bright rich pure colors. My influences include the work of self-taught artists (I was first taught to paint by my fourth grade teacher in Gautier, MS, Ms. Francis Smith, originally of Hattiesburg, who enthralled me with her memory and historic canvases as well as her handling of local landscape), outsiders (Wolflii and Ramirez), Chicago Imagists, and ethnic sources from pre-Columbian to African and Far Eastern.
My style reflects an appreciation for naive and narrative art expressed outside the restraints of Western perspective.
My work is all made on cotton or rag paper, darkened with watercolor. I draw the image with black ink, sometimes graphite and prismacolor; and fill in the image completely with prismacolor. The paper is sometimes mounted to board before the drawing is made, and, upon completion, sprayed with a UV resistant fixative and framed without glass. Unmounted drawings are framed under glass.
I spoke on the phone with Steve Shepard last Thursday. He was getting his house, his studio and his parents' house - all close to the Gulf of Mexico coast in Mississippi - as safe as possible from Hurricane Gustav. He described how much was lost to him and to his family in Hurricane Katrina, three years ago this past week.
Good Luck, Steve!
The drawings in the Kimura date from 1986 to 2006, and Shepard regards this as an important showing of his odyssey as a visual artist.
No matter what Hurricane Gustav does to his home, he plans on giving a lecture about his art this coming Wednesday, September 3, at the Fine Arts Building Recital Hall, at 7:00 p.m. There will be a reception for the artist earlier in the evening, in the gallery, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
images from Kimura Gallery courtesy of Steve Shepard