John Stephens: Surrealist Painter

John Stephens’ surreal paintings illustrate the metaphor of Indra’s Net (the philosophy that everything is interconnected). His computer generated work, The Glory of the Eternal, is a perfect example: it follows water cascading from the Saint Chapelle into a landscape of a flowing river in the Sierra Nevada, and eventually drains into a nebula. By including fragments of landscapes and blending them into a larger context, John creates visual prompts; “There have been studies that show [certain] parts of the brain light up more when they are looking at an unfinished piece because the viewer supplies the vision that completes it. The viewer and art are interactive. Incomplete work invites the user to engage and finish it with their imagination.”

Stephens’ art taps into spiritual realms for inspiration, often attaining a trance like state while painting. There is an ethereal quality to his acrylic on Masonite paintings which have the translucency of watercolors. “I have been greatly influenced by my trips to Ireland…the Celts loved the shoreline, the ‘thin spaces’ of the year, the twilight, the dream space between waking and sleeping, and the distant horizon…every edge where the two opposites meet. They believed that there is another world wrapped inside this one and that standing on the threshold between the two enhanced the consciousness that would power their amazing art.”

Recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Stephens’ tremor is only on his left side. He’s right handed so it hasn’t affected his painting much. However, he has noticed he’s been slowing down physically. To keep an active mind and body he studies language, reads extensively, and practices martial arts. “I am essentially a whole and healthy being contradicted by the continuous reminders of the little failures and malfunctions of my body, which may lead to an interesting new state of creative consciousness.” Although having Parkinson’s makes him feel like an old man at times, he notes that Matisse had severe arthritis and he painted with brushes strapped to his hands. “Throughout history there have always been artists who are disabled and find ways to create and live their passion.”

This post is part of an ongoing blog series “Artists and Parkinson’s.” As an artist with Parkinson’s, I was motivated to connect with other artists who have Parkinson’s and find out about their body of work, how the disease has affected them and what accommodations they have made as a result.

To raise awareness of PD and money for research, I created a line of distinctive tulip jewelry. The tulip is a symbol for PD. For the entire month of April, I am donating 10% of all jewelry sales to be split between the American Parkinson Disease Association and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

View the Collection here


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