Stephen M Rapp (1948-) was raised back and forth between the red rock deserts of Mormon Southern Utah, and the 1950's erotic glamour streets of Hollywood. Both arenas provided him with vivid images of color and sensuality. His failed academic history ended several attempts at higher educational establishments, thus sending him into the life of labor, often hard, and self-employment. He skirted the world of painting for 40 years as a writer/filmmaker, a founding member of the Sundance Film Institute, a designer and eventually a builder/gardener/craftsman. He grew up as a young boy amidst his father’s art and a large art book collection where he discovered his childhood favorites: Rockwell, Hart Benton, N.C. Wyeth, Dixon and the beloved Pre Raphaelites.
The death of his artsy mother in law recently found him knee high in canvas and art supplies, living in the deep forests of Western North Carolina, with time on his hands.
Twenty years in Jungian analysis afforded him a massive dream journal and a file of 5,000 personal images. Those images became as paintings, expressions of honest work, and the pleasures and the sorrows of a way of life fading away.
"When I paint, I feel a sense of reverence for my subject. That reverence is what I want to paint."
We've all seen it; the news coverage in the aftermath of a devastating tornado or flood, and that image of a family and a home in ruins. They solemnly dig through the wreckage, searching desperately for something; something that can’t be replaced: the artifacts of their lives; family photos or a cherished ring of your Mother's. It’s almost as if the solid connection with our past, where we came from, the reminder of who we are, is more important then any other worldly possession. The projection on those items is a vision of someone who remains in our heart as a force and influence for good that we hope to pass on.
When I choose an image to paint I rarely think about it. It's always a quick and clear choice, just like the word association tests they made me take in my youthful delinquency. I just paint the first thing that captures my eye and my heart. After I start the painting, I probably then over think it. But now after a period of painting, I'm starting to look at my collective work and I am asking myself, "OK, What's going on here?"
What first comes to mind is, "familiarity." These images all are images I'm familiar with. When I examine the word "familiarity," I see, "family, and people I know." Those two concepts, intimacy with others and family are ideas I care deeply about. Like a family photograph, the focus of my paintings look at us, often straight in the eye. Without pride and hubris they seem to say, "Look at what I've done." "Look at who I am." "I've gained my daily bread, by the grace of God, by my efforts, and with a map to follow." I did what needed to be done, at a moment on this life's convoluted, difficult, and mysterious path.