Stephen Maffin

I have always been captivated by visual images. Like a poem, a painting can be “read” in any number of ways. The longer the viewer gazes at it, the more meanings, references and associations the painting offers. These simultaneous meanings imbue an image with its intense communicative power. In my own work I seek to evoke disparate elements of the viewer’s personal experience: their awareness of the processes involved in the work’s creation; their perception of the image before them as representation; their knowledge of the context of both the image and the artist’s technique. Because each of my paintings combines both an idealization and a corruption of the image, they challenge the viewer to honor the figure confronting them. My images are deliberately imperfectly represented, not simply through the inaccuracy or limits of two-dimensional representation, but through the distressing of the surface they appear upon. At the same time, the image idealizes through simplification the figure it represents. My medium is plastic—plaster on burlap—and it stands for the physical presence of the person represented. I begin to work by applying a layer of plaster to burlap, working it into the fibers and then forming it against a smooth surface. Once the plaster has dried, I seal it, then use the resulting given textures, as well as create my own by breaking and scraping the surface, to produce a picture which I then bring out in color. The resulting edges, the cracks, scrapes, and pits, while conveying an image, also serve to embody the corporal reality of the figure. My work is not a window to an illusion or merely an image. Each piece intends to be a thing in itself, a personal presence. It is the texture of the surface as something separate from representation, a system of discrete elements that can be understood as immediate, real, having a history, that I feel brings to each of my pieces the same sense of identity we hope to communicate to and find in others. To discover the hint of this feeling in artwork is to acknowledge our longing for connection.