The 32nd Annual Colorado Governor's Art Show has named its 2023 award winners, and among them is Stephen Landis of Loveland, CO. His sculpture “Spirit Vessel” was given an Award of Merit and is for sale on the art show’s website. Landis pulls his inspiration from lived experiences and uses multiple mediums from clay, bronze, wood, and steel, amongst others, to convey his visions into three dimensions. The mastery of his craft is evident in his work and deserving of its recognition. Dive into the mind of a full time studio artist in the interview below.
LS: What inspired you for your piece “Spirit Vessel”?
Stephen: The idea for the piece came from a trip to Patzcuaro, Mexico. During Day of the Dead celebrations, the local fisherman put candles in their boats to welcome back the souls of their ancestors, for a spectacular night time ritual. I took that concept and merged it with myths from the Pacific Northwest Native Tribes involving ravens and spirits and canoes.
LS: Did you create “Spirit Vessel” for the Governor’s Art Show?
Stephen: “Spirit Vessel” is one in a series of my sculptures involving the boat as transporters for our troubled and triumphant journey through life. It just happened to be the one I picked for the show.
LS: What influences your artwork and how does the medium you choose to work in play a role in that influence?
Stephen: My art is influenced by my life up until now. My upbringing, travel, memories, are just some of the things that trigger my imagination. There are other artist’s influences like: Cristina Cordova, Beth Cavener, Javier Marin and Odd Nerdrum, to name a few. As far as the medium, it’s chosen by what material best allows me to realize the idea that I want to express. Sometimes it’s all ceramic or bronze and sometimes it’s a mix of many things, concrete, wood, steel, fiberglass, whatever is needed to make it complete. It all starts with an idea or image in my mind and then flows from there.
LS: What drew you to reside in Loveland, CO?
Stephen: For years I lived in Denver and would drive up here to use the foundries, mold makers, metal chases and patina people. Finally, with traffic getting so bad and spending more and more time here I made it easier on myself by moving here. The arts community is very active here and provides a lot of support.
LS: Have you noticed an artistic progression in your work that relates to where you’re from and the places you’ve lived and studied in?
Stephen: Yes, of course. Early on I was only exposed to the art culture in this country and you become insular in your thinking and process. Later after having lived in other countries and experiencing their cultures, it expanded my creativity to options I never expected.
LS: What does your creative process look like?
Stephen: Well, as a sculptor, clay is the material I prefer to start my process with but I believe realizing the work in a single medium can be restrictive to my final goal. To me, sculpting is drawing in three dimensional space so I must be flexible to the fluctuations in my creative process. This process most often is born with the manifestation of an idea or image in my mind of some sort which then becomes the starting point for a sculpture. I then decide which medium I feel is best suited to realize this. As the idea and form becomes more definable it starts to take on a meaning and allows me to explore what theme or image has been presented. This procedure is what I go through with each sculpture I create.
LS: What is something you have tried to instill in your students, as a professor, that you yourself live by as an artist?
Stephen: Don’t be afraid to go beyond your comfort level. Some of my best pieces have come from pushing the boundaries of my expertise.
"Don’t be afraid to go beyond your comfort level. Some of my best pieces have come from pushing the boundaries of my expertise." - Stephen Landis