Stephen C. Datz - My Desert - Artist's Comments

Solo Exhibition presented by Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery March 11, 2016

"You must come with no intentions of discovery. You must overhear things, as though you'd come into a small and desolate town and passed by an open window."

                                                                                                         - Barry Lopez, from "Desert Notes"


I came to the desert of southeastern Utah as a suburban kid who'd never slept on the ground under an open sky. I still remember my first night out, in the Escalante canyon region of Utah. It was April 1989. I was with my fiancee and her best friend, both Aspen Colorado natives and experienced outdoorswomen. We were a couple of dozen miles away from the nearest blacktop, my car had gotten a flat on the rough road out to the trailhead and had to be pushed off the road until we returned, and my backpack, laden for a 6 day trip, got heavier with each step. I closed my eyes that night frustrated, frightened, and uncomfortable.

When I awoke the next day, something had changed. It was not as though I was suddenly a new person or anything. There was no epiphany. But I woke up deeply rested, with all the distractions and worries of the day before incinerated by the warmth and color of a desert sunrise. I had never seen anything like it before, and found myself eager to get that impossibly heavy backpack on again and start seeing more. The desert had gotten into my blood.

That trip ignited my interest in landscape painting and thereby gave my career a direction and a focus that has never wavered. For the past quarter century I have taken every opportunity to continue my romance with the desert country, hiking, camping, exploring, and painting it. It is an inexhaustible source of wonder and inspiration to me.

The work presented in this exhibition is an homage to the sources of that inspiration. Each of the paintings in the show depicts a subject that holds a special place in my heart. Some recall my earliest experiences of the desert country of the southwestern U.S., while others are impressions of more recent discoveries. In all cases they are places I continue to visit, explore, and paint to this day - places that continue to reveal new aspects of themselves to me, reminding me that, while I'll never be able to paint it all, it will be the work of my life to try.