Steven Fiscus

Painting, public art, building and design

Painting is a social and cultural act. Making art is a cooperative, mutually beneficial venture enacted in an effort to reach a greater understanding among people. Most of the rewards of making art come from struggling with the process itself. My experience of this process is always dependent in part on the other work I have been doing: building & building design, teaching, industrial design, working on a farm.

I studied painting (and environmental studies) at Oberlin College and then pursued even more visual art studies at what is now the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I was extremely fortunate to have had both of these experiences, as they introduced me to ideas and people that have made a huge difference in my approach to work and life. The images contained in the various projects and periods of the portfolio albums herein show a breadth of pursuit and thought, I think, which came out of the education I developed at these places and elsewhere in between and after. The people I have had the privilege to work with have been incredible, and several of them have inspired me to pursue teaching further as well.

My approach to this work is that of a general practitioner. The project parameters determine the materials, subject matter, location, etc. There are, however, recurring themes in the work I do and the work I pursue. From the moment I started seriously painting in the late eighties, I have been interested in places and what makes them work. By 'places' I am referring to the spaces we inhabit and encounter during the course of living, whether urban or rural, interior or exterior, real or imagined, micro or macro. For better or worse, the places we spend time impact our lives, our thoughts, and our relations. We can in turn make places over, if given enough time and energy on a certain human scale. It was this belief that led me to building and design in large part. From a painter's perspective, the tradition of placemaking is slightly less concrete than for the builder, and the function or end result is naturally different. This issue can be said to be a central function of painting through the ages. The mind is asked to participate, and if that is effective, the bodily sensations may follow. But this is rare. Often, contemporary painting is an intellectual endeavor. Like other forms of cultural text, it is rare that an encounter with a made thing inspires a bodily reaction or sense of awe. As a rule, we are a tough audience to impress, having been titillated, stimulated, provoked and annoyed from all directions for so long. But this is the goal of the endeavor, in my opinion: to encourage the transport of human understanding and feeling.