Essay by Quinn Gomez-Heitzberg, April 2002

for Next Wave II at the Fresno Art Museum

Stephen Dents’s painting is rooted in an abiding belief that an artist who is truly engaged in his work can find endless variation in the exploration of the simplest forms. As an artist who is interested in the fundamental value of making art, Steve regards process as highly as product.

The process through which he builds the basis of his paintings begins with the inscription of repeated words, phrases, or passages onto the canvas. From this expressive foundation, patterns emerge and gradually become more distinct. At this point, Steve begins to engage his subject in a more direct way. What had been a brightly colored field of abstraction is covered with a subdued green. Definition is given to space and form is given to objects. Word becomes pattern, pattern becomes structure, structure becomes depth. As one painting fades, the next takes shape. The space with which we are finally confronted may not bear direct witness to the process that created it, however, they are one and the same.

In every aspect of Steve’s work there is a recognition that art never begins from a blank slate. His chosen subject, the still life, is one steeped in tradition, and all the complications that it entails. But the natural forms he depicts are never cliche, never patronizing. Steve has said that he prefers the phrase nature morte to still life, certainly a more apt description for the objects he paints. But implied in the pods, bulbs, and rhizomes he paints is the life, or the possibility of life contained in all natural things. the process of creation, the process of growth permeates his work.

Steve says that he finds a peace in not having to say anything through this work. No grand statement, no philosophical gesture. The fact is that he doesn’t have to. The work speaks for itself about the importance of process, the value of history, and the meaning of artistic practice.

still life, 2000-2003 | 2004 | projects/work | Tags: , | Comments (0)