2018-02-01 / Arts & Entertainment

Artist SPOTLIGHT: Stephen Mancini, pushing the parameters

By Kathy O’Flinn

Stephen Mancini with “Birds of a Feather” Stephen Mancini with “Birds of a Feather” Classically trained, Stephen Mancini has been painting for more than five decades — always looking for a new way to stretch parameters.

He communicates something specific in each of his works. While he starts with a realistic drawing on canvas, he feels the need to push the design, the layout, the colors, to imbue additional emotion into the piece. “I’m beyond the literal and into the abstraction,” he said.

A great deal of that pushing involves the addition of papers, cloth and resin glass — which he has formulated himself and pours onto the canvas directly or moves from another surface.

His paintings are very sculptural with texture that creates shadows and swells to the surfaces, as in a ballet dancer’s white tutu, a water fountain spilling over a jar, ripples of translucent water in a marina.

Feeling limited by the opacity of paints, he has perfected the use of poured resin to give his paintings a luminosity and transparency by controlling the color and depth of the resin glass. “It’s an effect – a lot of experimenting to get it right where light doesn’t bounce off it and get in the way of reading the painting,” he said.

He paints varied subjects, many of which are inspired by music. The piece he was working on when Spotlight visited his studio, “Swan Lake,” was inspired by a ballet performance he attended. It is one of a series based on Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky ballets he is working on. His sketches of the planned series are taped to the studio wall with notes, thumbnails of ideas, from his research. “Firebird,” The Nutcracker” and “The Sleeping Beauty” await their canvases.

After the research and sketches, the drawing on canvas is the next step.

“The composition is intended to hold its own. Then I can play with textures, colors, shapes and forms and variations of the values of the paint later,“ he said.

In “Naples Pier,” he saw an opportunity, asking himself, “How do I do this thing that is iconic? There’s room to find something of real value rather than a mechanical reproduction,” he said. Seen from the point of view of flying eastward into Naples over the pier, it is peppered with birds. Then for a more expressive vision, he added lovingly joined hands recalling walks on the beach with his wife.

“Birds of a Feather,” focusing on the faces of two young women, was inspired by the Beatles song “Blackbird” and its theme of racial inequities. “These are not meant so much to be girls as it is about the human race,” he said. He looks for the graphic that says it best, making his communication readily understandable.

His next show opens March 2, with a reception March 7 from 5 to 8 p.m., and runs until March 27 at Sweet Art Gallery, 2100-A Trade Center Way, Naples.

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