On January 9th, to kick off the new year, I attended the Hemphill press breakfast to do a write up on their latest show for our affiliate post on Borderstan. It only took minutes to realize that Steven Cushner’s show was one of, if not, the best show I had ever seen in a gallery in Washington, DC. In case you have not had the chance to see it yet, his work in this show includes large, symmetrical, over powering and familiar works on oddly shaped canvases. It was only a week ago that the work of Steven Cushner’s genius started to come together. Visiting Steven in his home studio, I was able to really understand his creative process and get a sneak peak at what he is currently working.
After seeing the show at Hemphill, it surprised me that one of the first things that Cushner told me was that his relationship with color goes back as far as he can remember and at times can get out of control. His studio is surely full of it, different from the muted tones of his current show. Every space on his wall is covered with his latest pieces and watercolor “sketches” of the images he hopes to put on canvas. Color, color and more color! With the overwhelming color in his studio, I immediately wanted to know what led to his, almost entirely, black and white work currently at Hemphill. This work came from an overload of color in the early 90s that Cushner says included work with awful, crazy colors.
Cushner’s work is very physical and gestural but he considers it “fake gesture”. He tried to explain that the “fake” part comes in the editing stages of his work. He explained that each of his works consists of many layers and most works may have even started out a completely different, color, size or shape. He often has trouble figuring out which colors to use and where to take them, even if that means eliminating them all together.
My favorite work currently in Cushner’s studio, is hardly a work in progress. In fact, if it doesn’t find a home, I hope to own it one day! It is a work that he hopes will evoke the idea of infinity and a forever journey. His inspiration was very clearly mountains and like the work currently at Hemphill, Cushner very deliberately worked on creating a drastic sense of space with illusion. While the colors were more muted that he thought the final product would be, it was captivating, calming and gave the feeling of seeing a gorgeous sunset. Like the work at Hemphill the works size in itself is truly remarkable and powerful.
Working with smaller canvases is more difficult for Cushner. In our discussion of his technique, he expressed several times that he was more comfortable with large canvases and that they just feel right. Clearly, the large-scale works translate in a truly unique and powerful way, whether in color or, as currently seen at Hemphill, in black and white.
I was honored to have had the chance to look through a small window of Steven Cushner’s creative through process. His show at Hemphill will be through March 9, 2013 and is worth everything minute spent sharing the space with his works of shaped canvases.
Bringing the Art in DC to You,