I have always avoided classifying my artwork in regard to style and have eschewed defining it by any of the many “-isms” that inhabit and inhibit art appreciation and criticism. Labels tend to be limiting and distorting and, once acquired, often will stifle creative growth in any direction at variance with the label. The visual artist, like the actor, should, I think, reject being type cast. Nevertheless, I recognize there is a certain convenience for the artist in being able to facilely classify and, therefore, explain his work, and there is greater advantage for others in being able to place the artist and his work into a comforting and easily apprehended pigeonhole. Indeed, it is inevitable that an artist will be marked with the brand of some “-ism.” It is best, therefore, that it be one of his own choosing and defining.
My own artwork, acrylic paintings, primarily whimsical fantasy tableaux and historical portraits, manifest most of the elements of what I would call Naive Classicism, which I will attempt to clarify. Classicism in art, with its emphasis on harmonious composition and formal balance, emotional restraint and understatement, traditional techniques and modalities, conventional, idealized, stylized forms and subject matter, a conservative world view, and an Apollonian sense of discipline would seem in conflict with the attributes associated with the naif -- unschooled, free-spirited, and unaware or dismissive of artistic conventions and traditions. Yet, a synthesis is achieved when an artist’s aspiration to classical values is imperfectly realized owing to incongruous skill and technique, the employment of an idiosyncratic style, the pursuit of non-traditional subject matter, or the influences of personal tastes, viewpoints, and sensibilities. The result will exhibit elements of classical art, yet have the feel of outsider or folk art. Naive Classicism thus comprises a recognizable type of artwork, but not a specific technique or style like Impressionism, nor a predictable variation on Classicism such as Art Deco.
My own take on Naive Classicism presents the following characteristics:
1. Bright, clean, strong colors, accentuated by the use of multi-layered acrylic on museum board (which absorbs the paint rather canvas or other gessoed surfaces on which the paint merely stands.)
2. Elimination of light and shadow as compositional elements. Shading is uniformly applied, e.g. the outer edges will be darkened, the middle of the object, highlighted slightly. The darkening of the natural color of an object due to lack of light is pretty much ignored. Deep chiaroscuro is rarely used.
3. Stylized poses for figures, avoiding distorting positions and limiting foreshortening, which I find difficult to render well.
4. Flexible perspective and proportion. I don’t set out to alter either, but I rely on the maxim “if it looks right, it is right,” and sometimes that is at variance with photographic reality. Sometimes the relative size of foreground or background elements may be determined less by their actual size than by their importance to the picture. A consistent viewing perspective is not always religiously adhered to, if, departing from it, some element is more advantageously presented.
5. Simplification. Since the eye is drawn to areas of high detail, unimportant areas of the composition demand a sketchier rendering than important areas, which must display finer detail, as well as stronger color and perhaps greater texture. I believe that beauty is “the expurgation of the superfluous,” and what is unnecessary for the message of the composition and its convincing execution should be deemphasized or deleted. Another consideration is that a painting should be seen at maximum effect from a distance of, say, six to ten feet and, therefore, line and detail must “carry,” (the reason I use a needle to outline objects in black paint).
"...a body of work of considerable strangeness ... The paintings are intensely romantic in an adolescent way ... full of a kind of yearning idealism ... the works have an emotional sincerity that can't be faked." Margaret Hawkins, Chicago Sun-Times, June 19, 1992.
"Anderson quickly reveals an almost limitless mental capacity for art appreciation ; ... His inner drive is to create art, to learn about it, and to pursue it to the point of obsession. ... Anderson's art is an exemplary testament to the pure nature of the best of self-taught artists." Annabelle Helber Massey, Dallas Observer, October 21, 1999.
"Anderson's portraits are precise and intense, with a mysterious remoteness. ... The women are invariably voluptuous and romantic, yet prim and detached, as though they are looking into another world. ... Anderson creates his own genre of the Hollywood actress as temptress and icon, which he presents with a skill unusual for a self-taught artist." John Hood, Encyclopedia of American Folk Art, New York, 2004.
"Anderson's work has a following because he appears to do effortless what a lot of educated artists try to do and fail: he makes fanciful, fantasy-centered art full of belief and devoid of irony. ... What's interesting about Anderson's work, for all its garishness and primitivism, is the earnestness with which it is painted. There's no returning to this kind of self-absorbed naivete for trained artists, but in an art world full of faux innocents, it is useful to see the real thing." Margaret Hawkins, Chicago Sun-Times, September 24, 2004.
"... a self-taught portraitist, intent on capturing women in all of their allegorical beauty ... has a firm grip on narrative works replete with ladies and critters sprung from his splendid imagination." Judith Ann Moriarty, , January 31, 2007.
Stephen Warde Anderson
3636 Grant Avenue
Rockford IL 61103
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS:
"Stephen Warde Anderson: Neoclasical Naive" Lindsay Gallery, Columbus OH, September 2019
"Stephen Warde Anderson: Attention to Detail" Intuit Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, January 2018
"The Wonderful World of Stephen Warde Anderson" Rockford Art Museum, Rockford IL, January 2016
"Fables and Fairy Tales" Clark Arts Center, Rockford University, Rockford IL, September 2014
“Nature Redux” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, July 2012
“Gambling For Souls” Antieau Gallery, New Orleans, September 2011
"Mystical Worlds" Packer-Schopf Gallery, Chicago, February 2010
"Fairy Tales," Packer-Schopf Gallery, Chicago, July 2008
"Fantasy Tableaux," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, January 2007.
"Variations on the Conventional," Aron Packer Gallery, Chicago, January 2006.
"Aquatic Fantasies and Maritime Adventures," Aron Packer Gallery, Chicago, September 2004.
"Haunted Heroines," Aron Packer Gallery, Chicago, September 2002.
"Symbolism and Symmetry, Costume and Couture," Lyonsweir-Packer Gallery, Chicago, December 2000.
"Pictorial Fantastry," Freeport Art Center, Illinois, July 2000.
"Out of the Cosmos," Webb Gallery, Waxahachie, Texas, October 1999.
"Maidens, Myths, and Monsters," Aron Packer, Chicago, October 1998, and May 1999.
Michael Lord Gallery, Milwaukee, October 1995.
Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, March 1995.
"Screen Goddesses" Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, January 1995.
Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, May 1992.
"Pastels and Paintings" Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, August 1990.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS:
"Rockford Midwestern" Juried group show, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford IL, June 2018
"Collective Soul: Outsider Art from Chicago Collections" Intuit, Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, September 2014
"25th Anniversary Show" Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, April 2013
"The Beast Within" Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, July 2013
"The Architecture of Hope - the Treasures of Intuit" Intuit, Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, January 2011.
"Specimens" Fawick Gallery, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, January 2011.
“Forget me NOT” Intuit, Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, IL, Sept. 2010.
"When Animals Talk" Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, October 2009.
"Visages: Face Revisited" Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL, Jan. 2009.
"Tura! Tura! Tura! " Group benefit show honoring Tura Satana at The Tattoo Factory Gallery, Chicago, IL, Oct. 2008.
"Stars of the Silver Screen, Hollywood Portraits by Stephen Warde Anderson" South Shore Arts Gallery, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, Oct. 2008.
"Rockford Midwestern" Juried group show, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL, July 2008.
"20th Anniversary Celebration Exhibit" Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI, April 2008.
"Outside - In" GAGA Arts Center, Garnerville, New York, June 2007.
"Myths, Dreams, and Other Revelations" Noyes Arts Center, Evanston, Illinois, May 2007.
"Black and White" Fawick Gallery, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, September 2006.
"Tooth and Claw," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, July 2006.
"Diabolique: Images of the Devil in Contemporary Art," Walkers Point Center for the Arts, Wisconsin, July 2005.
"Strange Presences," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, October 2004.
"Ghostly Creations, Dark Inspirations," Rockford College Art Gallery, Illinois, October 2001.
"Idols and Icons," Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, April 2000.
"Within Reach: Northern Illinois Outsider Artists," Rockford Art Museum, Illinois, May 1998.
"Visions, Dreams, and Prophecies:Ten Intuitive Chicago Artists," Community Gallery of Art, College of Lake County, Illinois, February 1998
"Outsider Art, an Exploration of Chicago Collections," Chicago Cultural Center, December 1996.
"Subjective Intentions," Rockford Art Museum, Illinois, September 1993.
"Visions: Expressions Beyond the Mainstream from Chicago Collections," Arts Club of Chicago, September 1990.
"H.P.A.C. or Bust," Hyde Park Art Center, Illinois, January 1989.
Smithsonian Art Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Museum of American Folk Art, New York
Art Institute, Roger Brown Study Collection, Chicago
Milwaukee Art Museum
College of Lake County, Illinois
Rockford Art Museum, Illinois
Freeport Art Center, Illinois
100 Artists from the Midwest, E. Ashley Rooney, Schiffer Books, 2012
Encyclopedia of American Folk Art, Gerard C. Wertkin, Editor, New York, 2004.
Self-taught, Outsider, and Folk Art: A Guide to American Artists, Locations, and Resources, Betty-Carol Sellen and Cynthia J. Johanson, McFarland and Co., 2000.
Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists, Chuck and Jan Rosenak, New York, 1990.