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Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey is in it’s final week on vew at the Gallery. The last day to see this exhibition is Sunday, January 15, 2017. David P. Stephens has an eclectic contribution to the Terroir exhibition with his work Saint El Camino: Our Lady of Internal Combustion. In his Q&A below, we have a chance to hear in his own words, a reflection on this work and his practice.

We hope that you have a chance to get out to the Gallery and experience Terroir again, or for the first time and remember the gorgeous exhibition publication is now available for sale at the Gallery Shop.
Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey looks at regional artistic production through the work of 29 artists whose practices draw influence from this place, its history and its culture, in new and meaningful ways. This group exhibition, a partial picture of what’s going on here at this moment in time, includes an exciting range of experienced and emerging artists, making for a dynamic and engaging exploration of Nova Scotia’s rich contemporary visual arts community. What is your connection to Nova Scotia, and why were you inspired to submit a work for this exhibition?

My connection to Nova Scotia is the fact that this is the province of my birth – it’s my home – although I’ve lived in other provinces and communities as diverse as Labrador and Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway, Nova Scotia is where I am grounded, my roots run deep here.

I am always looking for opportunities to share my work with others, be that in public galleries such as the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, or spontaneously on the streets and highways via my art car creations. Submitting my work for inclusion in Terroir seemed a natural fit, and I have a long history with the gallery. I feel a true connection to the gallery, and to the diverse and broad range of artists included in Terroir.

Can you tell us a little about your work that is on view?

My work is titled, Saint El Camino: Our Lady of Internal Combustion. I like to work with found and discarded objects. The work is a shrine to the VW Beetle. The religious figure in the centre was a souvenir of Portugal, which I found in Value Village. Upon seeing this piece, the song, Plastic Jesus came to mind as one verse includes the line, “get yourself a sweet Madonna, dressed in rhinestones sitting on a pedestal of abalone shells”. The souvenir seemed a perfect fit, and upon returning to my studio I inverted a VW Beetle engine bonnet, placed the souvenir inside with an as-found Hot Wheels El Camino, and started constructing the work from there. I included used CD’s, marbles, shells, and more in an effort to create a fantasy world for the viewer to spend some time in, to roam about and seek solace, comfort and peace in the corners of the work. Overall, it’s just a meaningless jumble of items which have little or no connection to one another, but for some it “works” and that’s nice to know.

Your work is on view along with 28 other artists. How do you see your work within the context of this group exhibition?

It’s an honour to have my work included alongside other artists, some of whom I’ve known for years, others who I’ve just met through this exhibit. It’s a nice way to connect with others – although I believe it could have been even more inclusive of those often regarded as on the margins of the so-called “art scene”. I think such inclusion is important.

God of My Addiction 2016, mixed media. found objects on constructed and hand riveted helmet. Photo Credit: Peyton Chisholm

What are you working on in now, or planning for the near future?

In 2013 and 2016 I received Arts Nova Scotia Creation Grant assistance which helped me pursue my latest project, a series of sculptural/assemblage works and paintings titled, Carmageddon: The Death of the Automobile Series. My submission to Terroir is included in this series. The impetus for this series, which is actually a trilogy, came about from my lifelong interest in automotive design, and my interest in creating art cars, melded with the love/hate relationship most of us have with the automobile in general. Overall, I’m attempting to bring about discussion and thought in reference to the future of the automobile and how we might embrace the aesthetic beauty and design elements while at the same time trying to find a balance in terms of combining the utilitarian with the aesthetic, while respecting the environment and not hanging on too tightly to a nostalgic/romantic view of the automobile. I view it as a look in the rear view mirror, at the future unfolding behind us. I look forward to additional Arts Nova Scotia funding, so that I might round out this trilogy, then move on to my next project which is waiting in the wings.

Power Glide, 2016, oil paint on panel. Photo Credit: David P. Stephens

How has your artistic process developed over time? What informs your practice?

I like to think my artistic process has developed in a way that reflects how I have personally developed over the same time. My art has evolved and shifted as have I – in some ways for the best – both can be seen as rather precarious and intimidating. I suppose I just follow through on my “process” and my life by focussing on what I’m striving to create in the moment, with not too much time spent gazing in the rear view mirror or looking miles ahead through the windshield of life. I prefer to just concentrate on the road as it unfolds in front of me. One mile at a time. “Every mile brings you closer to home”.

When you’re not working, what are activities/interests that inspire your practice?

Seems I’m always “working” – even in my sleep! For the past fifteen years however, my primary focus and job description has been simply, “I’m Bella’s dad”. Being a dad has shifted my life in so many ways, and as such it has had a profound influence on my “work”. Once I’ve completed the aforementioned Carmageddon trilogy project, I anticipate the evolution of a new project built upon being Bella’s dad, and how artists such as myself find a balance between parenthood and creating as an artist. The road goes on forever.

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