Memory Lane was never so charming before the artist Steven Christian Reed put it to canvas. Beautifully unorthodox in his approach to art, Reed captures, not just a subject onto canvas, but the impression of the hazy recollection and naive understanding of the world seen through children’s eyes.
His unique adaptations for post-impressionist techniques make for a certain charm in his work that is simply emotionally captivating. I refer most specifically and most clearly to two of his works, “Treasure Hunt” and “Little Boots.” It suggests to me how a child sees. The post-impressionist ideas evoke a sense of lesser understanding and an innocent perspective. Click on an image to enlarge
Along with that innocence is the child-like joy that wanes in all people after an all too brief period of time, alas. Reed is all too well able to retain it in his art. It’s hard to decide if that joy is brought out by his use of colour or some other tool or technique, but it is there, bounding from canvas to viewer like love notes from Romeo to Juliet. Look at “Waiting for Lunch” and “Sunday Stroll” for examples. There is no sense of pity for the geese, nor is there any sense that the geese, themselves, seem ill-used. On the contrary, the geese seem quite content, caged or walking about. It’s easy to see how a child could be so taken with the geese, as it seems that Reed, himself, is taken with them. For a child, the geese would be part of the family, and as important as mom and dad, and they seem quite comfortable in their roles.
Then there is the gate in “Villesuzanne’s Farm,” the tractor in “Sunday Stroll,” The boat in “Summer on the Dordogne” and the wheelbarrow in “The Old Sidekick.” All of these paintings share the theme of the “ride:” the ultimate expression of childhood glee. I am immediately reminded of the time I gave my grandson, Dallas, then three years old, a ride in the car. He had car rides before, hundreds, but always in the back of the vehicle in a car seat. For the ride I think of, we rode no more than, say, 50 metres downhill on a dirt road. I didn’t even turn on the engine, but I let him ride in the front. I’ll never forget the look on his face; he was thrilled. I’ve given him rides in wheelbarrows as well, and, while never on a tractor, there have been rides on vehicles that are similar in one way or another. Mr. Reed’s paintings take my back to a time when I had that kind of power to share with my grandson, and I am unable to do other than smile and reminisce with this art.
There is one more final point about Steven Christian Reed’s art that I’d like to mention: his diversity. On his biography with Arts, Artists, Artworks, he mentions the breadth of materials he uses including mixed media. That’s all excellent. But it’s his breadth of styles that piques my interest. Post impressionism seems to be what he calls home, but he also ventures into a style that is almost abstract expressionism. The point that keeps it from being that is the presence of visually recognizable features, such as a horizon line in “Sunset (The Final Hour) Over Worm’s Head.” This is a piece that features drama rather than nostalgia, and the sunset that we see is in every way, breathtaking. “Till the Morning Comes” is another in this category. It is, again, almost abstract expressionism, but the fact that there is enough on the canvas that is recognizable keeps it from falling into that category, and we wind up with something that is more akin to impressionistic expressionism, to coin a term, as there is a dogged sense of expressionism, but it is simply not abstract enough for the latter title.
For the most part, in what I have experienced of Steven Christian Reed’s work, I find a strong sense of my own childhood. I see my own shoes and my less-than- tidy sense of cleanliness in my childhood creative endeavours. I see the vagueness of my memories. Try as I might, I can’t see all the way around a subject of a memory. Instead, I see what Reed depicts: a subject with the haziness of nearly forgotten details. Where it is not my own childhood, I see my own children and grandchildren and my time with them. I stare and smile and stare some more with Reed’s work. But the best part of seeing his art is that I’m not seeing the art; I’m seeing me.
About the Writer
A. J. Mittendorf does not have a degree in art, but he does have equal credits—perhaps more in art history, appreciation and interpretation, and he has continued to study art on his own since the end of his university days. He is a long-time educator, having taught high school and university courses in both Canada and the U. S. He is also a poet, an actor, and a musician with symphony experience. The arts are his passion, and he longs to keep all of them in the forefront of our society.