Stephen C. Datz : The Beauty Way
Published online courtesy Western Art Collector, January 2021
Stephen C. Datz, Spirit Level, Oil, 60" x 40"
The centerpiece of the exhibition Stephen C. Datz: Southwest Sojourns, at Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson, Arizona, is the artist's painting, Spirit Level, a view of Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly from the canyon's rim.
It is the iconic view of Spider Rock, home of Spider Woman who taught the Navajo how to weave, how to create beauty and how to live in balance - the "Beauty Way." Although he ohen paints out-of-the-way spots, Datz is conscious when he paints something recognizable, that he has "a bit of responsibility to try to push across my own feeling rather than 'this is a great viewpoint and has commercial potential.' I wanted to show this in a way I hadn't seen before and to make a contribution to all of the artistic and photographic explorations of this subject from this spot," he says. "I try to go with fresh eyes. From the point of view of impact I try to present the intangibles that surround you when you're there."
Stephen C. Datz, Kolob Moonrise, Oil, 10" x 10"
Datz caught the early morning autumn sun as it illuminated the cliffs and the changing cottonwoods below in one of those rare "Wow!" moments. "Fall in the high desert is full of color," he explains. "You get to play with the full keyboard, as it were, putting the maximum range of notes into the idea. You play with contrasts of light and shadow." The direct morning sun reflects off the walls on one side of the canyon onto the walls of the other giving them a soh visual vibration. "The job of light in a painting is sometimes subtle," he explains. "Sometimes, it's very direct." In Spirit Level, he uses light "to have the viewer move through the composition." The massive spires of Spirit Rock rising up from the canyon floor between the high cliffs is one compositional element, but the eye travels up along the reflection of light on Chinle Creek to the sunlit cliff and back down again to a swath of direct sunlight at the bottom.
The painting measures 60 by 40 inches but other paintings in the exhibition are small and when done on location. "If I do an 8-by-10 on location and it feels as if I've said everything I want to say about that view I don't go back to it," he says. "I get everything in that small format. Making it larger is an exercise in duplication." The landscape in White Rim Vista-Canyonlands continuously revels itself in an 8-by-10-inch format. The desert flora in the foreground contrast with the buttes and cliffs which Datz has painted with increasing less detail, color and saturation.
The exhibition runs from January 15 to 31.
Stephen C. Datz, White Rim Vista, Canyonlands, Oil, 8" x 10"