is on a shamanic journey when he is photographing or painting.
He doesn’t so much look for inspiration, as he accepts
the good shot when it happens. He approaches his art not
from an intellectual standpoint, but from his gut. “Most
of us wear blinders and there’s so much to see. We
miss so much of it because we’ve got our minds on tomorrow,” Stephen
Stephen is first and
foremost, a photographer. His paintings grow from a photo
into art that is not easily categorized. Some are Pollockesque
with splatters of brilliant color – the kind of art
that invites each viewer to find different meanings in each
piece. Others use broad swathes of color with a palette knife,
and some have natural elements, incorporated into their execution.
He puts photographs together for kaleidoscopic prints that
tease you into trying to recognize the elements twisted out
of normal reality.
After having seen two Van Gogh shows as a child, Stephen
was hooked. He freely admits to a bad case of hero-worship
for Van Gogh.
When Stephen was about 12, he attended the Rhode Island School
of Design where he took classes on pastels, which got him
into drawing. Over the years he has expanded his formal education
with classes in photography and darkroom techniques, water
colors, and pen and ink drawing. He attended Northeastern
University, Boston for a Bachelor of Science degree in English,
and worked as a freelance lead photographer for the Quincy
“Is it a moon? A mountain? A tree?”
Childhood trauma influences
much of Stephen’s approach to art as a therapeutic
tool. As a young man, he discovered the palliative effects
of alcohol, and soon ended up with a full-blown addiction.
He married in 1963; but partly as a result of his addiction,
the marriage was not a good one, ending in divorce in 2000.
He became sober in 1979, and is working on 28 years of living
In the early 1970s, Stephen joined the South Shore Camera
Club (Boston). Within two years he was awarded the trophy
for Black and White Print of the Year.
Stephen has meditated most of his life. He became interested
in the books of Frederick Franck. Stephen says, “Franck’s
book, The Zen of Seeing, is about Zen seeing/drawing, truly
SEEING with one’s eyes, one’s senses, one’s
heart and one’s spirit. Franck taught that one should
draw from one’s inner self, one’s spirit, and
not just to meet others’ requirements/standards.” Stephen
took a one-day workshop with Franck, who told him, “Never
let anyone tell you how to draw.”
this knowledge along with his shamanic altered states. He
isn’t essentially concerned with what people think
about his work. His apartment is filled floor-to-ceiling
with his works. He says, “They are my friends, they
are me, from my soul.”
“I’m a photographer.
That’s where I’m at my best, when I’m
out on the mountains, or in the desert. Give me
a camera and I’ll put on my hiking boots.”
In 1993 Stephen was given a one-man show at the University
of Massachusetts, and was subsequently asked to co-curate
a Shamanic Art Show, which ran seven weeks and involved national
artists. Each week one artist talked about art and Native
Some of Stephen’s pieces were hung at Boston’s
Institute of Contemporary Art. They must have thought his
work was forward-looking, because he has a membership card
in ICA with an expiration date of 2093!
In the early 1990s, with his marriage on shaky ground, Stephen
went into intensive therapy to exorcise his childhood demons.
During this time, Stephen was working as a security guard,
ignoring his art, and feeling emotionally off-kilter most
of the time. While in therapy he studied and was awarded
a Masters of Education, also at Northeastern University.
Feeling he had much to offer other addicts, Stephen worked
for three years for Massachusetts Catholic Charities in their
drunk-driving program. To reclaim his focus on photography,
Stephen and his wife went on a year-long trip around the
US, Mexico and Canada. He spent $1000 on film.
Upon returning, Stephen’s life was changed after attending
a three-day workshop with John Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s
characterization of our three personality traits as being
the wounded child, the magical child, and the playful child
resonated with Stephen. He quit his medications for possible
bi-polar syndrome, and his old memories of abuse as a child
came back. “I basically hid in my art room for a year
and a half,” Stephen says.
He finally left his wife and home in Quincy and became involved
in a spiritual group in Quincy Center, and later Wisconsin
Dells, a spiritual community of 300 people. He stayed two
years. During this time, Stephen discovered clay, creating
3-dimensional gargoyles and other strange creatures. When
he left the Dells, he put them out in the woods for nature
After that, Stephen moved to Santa Fe where he accidentally
fell into making kaleidascopic prints. He received some prints
back from a film lab and was inadvertently given double prints.
He started playing with them, putting them together in strange
ways, then had the film lab print some of the photos in reverse.
Suddenly he had a new form by which to express his emotions. “There
are no accidents,” Stephen says with a laugh.
In Santa Fe he was heating with firewood, so he began making
sculptures from firewood. The artistic eye finds possibilities
In June 1999, Stephen drove to Canada to work with Spiritual
Master Teacher John de Ruiter for 15 months. When his visa
expired, Stephen decided to move to Moab. He’s been
here seven years. His health is not good, and hiking wipes
him out, but he still thinks, “Moab is heaven.”
Several years ago, Stephen discovered oil pastels. “I
love them because you can really move,” he says. He
starts with charcoal or pencil and then adds color. When
he is working, he goes into “an altered state of consciousness,
a total state of being, of heightened awareness, not just
in my head, but all of my senses and spirit and soul.” In
this place he is manic and works for four or five hours straight.
Consequently, he had symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome as
a result of squeezing round oil pastels. Two years ago, he
thought maybe using oils and acrylics would be easier on
his hands. He started with the acrylics and is so entranced
with the possibilities, he hasn’t yet opened the oils.
Stephen has had shows at Moonflower Market, Mondo Café,
and two Community Moab Abstract shows. If he sells a piece,
that’s fine, but if he never sells another piece, he
will still continue producing because that’s what artists
do. After all, Van Gogh sold only 1 painting in his life.