BUILDING INTO PAINTING Recent Constructed Paintings
Visiting Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum as a student, I discovered a small painting on wood panel by Francesco Pesellino, dated 1445. I was immediately attracted to Pesellino’s imagery of workers constructing a temple, a subject that appeared almost secular, which is an anomaly for early Italian painting. I determined to emulate Pesellino and other Pre-Renaissance painters as a way to reimagine contemporary life in my own work.
However, after decades of exploring a full spectrum of painting, I’ve come to understand that the act of building in some form is linked to my desire to create. I was raised in a family of skilled craftsmen, mechanics, and fabricators, and my painting process incorporates an acknowledgement of this tradition of practical labor and functional application, recognizing it as an important element of self-expression. For this reason, I’m most engaged when construction is either incorporated into the painting process or when I’m designing the environment in which the paintings are ultimately displayed. Working at the intersection of painting, collage, and relief sculpture, I don’t believe that the literal building of the pieces can be separated from the “loftier” endeavor of painting; rather, I believe that process is content.
Francesco Pesellino (1445) Construction of the Temple of Jerusalem Tempera on panel For the next few years, my earliest paintings eschewed traditional perspective and scale, relying instead on flat planes of color and simple forms to portray modern subjects, including scenes of construction and building. Only in hindsight do I realize this was a way to integrate the internal struggle I experienced as a young artist: to pay homage to the utilitarian culture that provided my family’s livelihood, while leaving that culture behind because the pursuit of art was unheard of.
Painting is how I communicate on a sensuous plane in order to share a visual experience. It’s a way to invite the viewer to see and feel what I see and feel, even if it’s a single passage in the work. It might be something as simple as how a brushstroke fragment, when juxtaposed with a solid color, collides in opposing energies, or how two accidental forms “rhyme” and connote a third when placed in proximity. In some pieces, I alternately compress the painting’s visual space to its surface and expand that surface to three dimensions, holding the picture planes in check through relationships of color, gestural marks, and transparency. I also describe abstracted experiences from my environment. A cityscape is implied when flowing lines and forms are suddenly interrupted by the hard edge of a saw-cut panel, or when a slice of color is wedged between two planes layered with graffiti-like marks, suggesting the view between urban towers. I construct my pieces by applying paint to large plywood sheets that are cut into workable-sized panels. To begin a piece, I arrange the various painted panels on the floor as a collage and continue cutting them as the painting progresses; any valuable scrap is recycled for future work. The loose components are assembled in a shop and returned to the studio, as an object with its own gravity, occupying a different visual space than a painting on canvas. Because of the assembled surfaces, a portion of the painting’s spatial illusion is transformed into a tactile three-dimensional form.
Construction III 42” x 78” Oil on Canvas 1982
Although I continue to paint on the pieces after they are assembled, I experience some sense of completion – and even reward – the moment they arrive from the shop. It’s a fulfillment of that primary need to build as well as communicate through painting, the content realized through its fabricated form. T.S.
Work in progress - Painting with a broom â€œPush comes to shoveâ€?
Mononoke 2016 Oil on Panels 55” x 76” x 3”
State Line 2016 Oil on Panels 24” x 27.25” x 1.5”
My Gemini 2016 Oil on Panels 60” x 31” x 2.5”
Fireplace Road 2016 Oil on Panels 63.5” x 60.5” x 3”
Pilot 2016 Oil on Panels 48” x 38” x 3.5”
Clark’s Heart 2016 Oil on Panels 29.5” x 41” x 2”
Swan 2016 Oil on Panels 17” x 27.5” x 1.5”
What Doug Said 2016 Oil on Panels 16” x 27” x 2”
Source 2016 Oil on Panels 48” x 55.5” x 3”
Field 2016 Oil on Panels 17.25” x 24.25” x 1”
47 2016 Oil on Panels 64” x 36” x 3.5”
Push comes to shove 2017 Oil on Panels 90” x 105” x 2”
Good and Bad Government 2016 Oil on Panels 24” x 65” x 2”
EDUCATION 1983 1979
M.F.A., Boston University B.F.A., Kansas City Art Institute
SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2 0 1 7 Sla307 Art Space, New York, NY 2008 George Billis Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2005 George Billis Gallery, New York, NY 2004 George Billis Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2004 The Honeywell Center, Wabash, Indiana 2002 Art Resources Transfer, New York, NY 1999 Rare Gallery, New York, NY 1999 Mizuma Gallery, Tokyo, Japan 1994 American Center Fukuoka, Fukuoka, Japan 1 9 93 Spark Gallery, Tokyo, Japan 1985
Bromfield Gallery, Boston, MA
GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2016 Smart Dust, Sla307 Art Space, New York, NY 2005 10th anniversary, Mizuma Gallery, Tokyo 2003 "New York Abstract", Esther M. Klein Art Gallery, Philadelphia, PA 2000 "Painting Abstraction," New York Studio School Gallery, New York, NY, curated by Graham Nixon 1999 "Multiples," Schauraum, Eggenfelden, Germany, curated by Petra Noll 1998 Project Space, Art Resources Transfer, New York, NY 1994 Sanaru-ku, Shizuioka Prefecture, Japan 1992 "Collector’s Choice of Emerging Artists," Vered Gallery, East Hampton, NY "WFMU," Germans van Eck Gallery, New York, NY, curated by Muranushi Lederman "The Wall Project," The Sculpture Center, New York, NY, curated by Muranushi Lederman 1 9 9 1 "Value: House of Value," 252 Lafayette Street (Renegade Space), New York, NY, curated by Cullen, Lederman, Mahoney and Muranushi 1989 "Group Show," Soho Center for the Visual Arts, New York, NY 1 9 8 7 "Inaugural Exhibition," Akin Gallery, Boston, MA 1 9 8 6 "Boston Now: Painting," Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA "Oneiric," Semaphore Gallery, New York, NY "The American Landscape," Ben Shahn Galleries, William Patterson College, Wayne, NJ 1 9 8 5 "Unaffiliated: Artists Without Galleries," Decordova & Dana Museum, Lincoln, MA "Kansas City Art Institute’s First Century," Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO "Young/Artists Exhibition," Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA "Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking," Bromfield Gallery, Boston, MA 1984 "Figuratively Speaking," Fitchburg Museum, Fitchburg, MA "Urban Images," Helen Shlien Gallery, Boston, MA
BIBLIOGRAPHY Joyce B. Korotkin, "Revews/Previews," NY Arts, Volume 4, No.11 Nov., 1999. Michael Brennan, "Painter's Journal ," Artnet Magazine, Oct., 1999. Michael Brennan, "Tim Steele's Random Calculations," artsMedia, Sept., 1999. Erika Lederman, "Tim Steele," Japan International Journal, Nov., 1993. Tim Steele, Exhibition Catalogue for Spark Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1993. Rose C.S. Slivka, "From the Studio," East Hampton Star, Sept. 17, 1992. Phyllis Braf, "7 Artists with Bright Futures," The New York Times, Sept. 13, 1992. Christine Temin, "Exhibits: A Change of Venue," The Boston Globe, Sept. 24, 1987. Daniel Scott, "The ICA Presents Boston Now," The Boston Ledger, July 19, 1986. David Bonetti, "Art: If not ‘Now,’ When?" The Boston Phoenix, July 15, 1986.
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