Rick Stevens grew up in Sparta, Michigan and started painting with his father, an amateur but skilled landscape painter. His earliest memories of watching his father work are contented ones filled with images of his father manipulating scenes of nature: painting trees, rubbing out streams, adding wildlife. In fact, it was one of these early experiences, in which a teenaged Stevens convincingly painted a Canada goose in flight into one of his father’s paintings, which launched him on his journey as an artist.
Nature is always at the heart of Rick Stevens’s painting, both as content and as a source of inspiration, but he has long resisted the label of landscape artist. While his earlier work was clearly landscape-based, in recent years he has abstracted elements of nature to create richly hued oils and pastels that shimmer with color and pulsate with vitality. Paying attention not only to lines and shapes, Stevens addresses the spaces between them with equal intensity to produce a sensation of motion, of energy fields that interact before our eyes.
His newest series, Interwoven Life, signals a subtle shift in his approach as he returns to his roots as a plein-air painter. He now blends his studio-crafted abstract expressionism with more recognizable elements of nature from his al fresco sessions as he embraces the Taoist concept of wu wei, which means “non-action” or “non-doing.”
“Wu wei is an effortlessness that happens through you rather than being created by you—you allow the inspiration to flow by getting out of the way. Instead of fighting it, I go with it. A lot of my work right now relates to tree forms, but I sometimes flip them or turn the shapes on edge to become a horizontal line, changing the orientation of the painting.”
As a student of many spiritual disciplines, Stevens underscores his reverence for the natural world by exploring universal principles of physics and metaphysics. His paintings emit an ethereal glow, as if lit by an unseen but powerful cosmic source.
Stevens career has consistently gained momentum since the start of his career. His work has been exhibited throughout the Great Lakes Region, including solo exhibitions at the Muskegon Museum of Art and the Brauer Museum of Art and Valparaiso University. Stevens has been awarded five artist –in-residencies in national parks since 1993. Hunter Kirkland has represented Rick Stevens since 2004.