The majestic mountains, canyons and deserts of Utah inspire many landscape painters to create canvases that emphasize the natural grandeur and stunning beauty of these breathtaking geological wonders. Steven Lee Adams, on the other hand, creates paintings that almost never feature them and most often simply ignore them.
Adams likes to unveil the unexpectedly extraordinary qualities of what only seems to be ordinary in nature. Nothing that bowls you over with its obvious importance or inspires awe with its weight or scale makes him want to grab a brush. He’s after deeper rather than bigger emotion, and he prefers the mystery of the intimate to the magic of the exalted. Basically, he’d rather get under your skin than blow you away.
“I want to capture landscapes that will haunt the viewer the way they’ve haunted me,” he said.
Creating the sort of haunting landscapes Adams is after is a tall order, precisely because what haunts him are the quiet swaths of nature that most viewers would overlook. He has to create on canvas what is not entirely apparent in the visible world. When you go looking for beauty in the ordinary, you risk ending up with ordinariness.
Adams admits to being daunted. “I have to fight my way to the blank canvas,” said the Utah native. “I always have a triangle of concerns. First there’s the ego, which always wants to do something great. Then there’s the emotional aspect that’s concerned with the feeling of the painting. And then there’s pragmatism, which considers whether anyone will want this painting when it’s done. All three points are necessary. It’s a struggle.”
That initial struggle results in canvases of curious intensity. You can’t immediately put your finger on what is so moving about a broken fence and an interrupted hedge that move diagonally across a canvas — a canvas that is otherwise committed to investigating the many hues of white that make up a snowy landscape. Nor is it obvious why a largely shapeless cloud mass looming benevolently over wavy hills draws you so completely into the heart of the picture. Whatever conflicts Adams experiences as he approaches a canvas resolve themselves in the complexity of visual harmonies that animate his pictures. “It’s getting into the painting that’s the struggle,” said the artist. “Once I’m painting, I’m not struggling anymore.”
Adams will be painting in and around Paderewski Fine Art Friday through Sunday. Stop by and meet this unique landscape painter. The gallery is located in Beaver Creek Village, across from the ice rink. For more information, call 970-949-6036 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.