Witness: Works by Stephen Burt

Engine’s first full virtual exhibition of 2021 features work by artist Stephen Burt. The exhibition will run through May 15 online only.

Stephen Burt (American, b. 1962) is a painter and printmaker living and working in Portland, Maine. Born in Deland, Florida in 1962, Stephen Burt has traveled extensively and most notably lived in Tehran, Iran from 1976 through 1978, witnessing the revolution. This formative period in the artist’s life nurtured both an interest in the power of decorative form drawn from Islamic art and an abiding interest in the dynamics of human passions.

Educated at Rhode Island School of Design (BFA 1987) and SUNY Purchase (MFA 1991). Burt’s work can be found in numerous public collections including, The Fogg Museum at Harvard, New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress. He is a recipient of grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and Ruth Chenven Foundation, among others.

An active member of Peregrine Press in Portland, Maine, Burt currently teaches drawing, painting and design at the University of New England.

Artworks are available for sale by inquiring with Engine via email or by calling 207-494-7125.

Artist’s Statement

The fragile container of our body is a miraculous home to our intellect and for many it is the house of the soul. However wonderous we may find this world and our home within it we tend to forget how closely we our connected to each other and the natural world around us. My recent work is a meditation on the sharp edges of this ignorance. The viewer may come to interesting and personal reflections on the state of nature and our personal responsibility to it. For me, the creation of art is about finding meaning and purpose in the observed world and to convey those thoughts and concerns to others by means of aesthetic and historical references.

My work illustrates the ways that my voice and thoughts become inextricably linked to the process of seeing and the results of close observation. My images are often as much a result of the arrangement of “abstract” principles of line, form and pattern as they are based on realistic morphology. In place of mirroring the world as it is, I would rather create a kind of reality rich with analogies. One thing may be many things. A tree is more than a tree; it is a whole universe that resonates with possibility.

From a very young age I have found the natural world a compelling and mysterious realm and the textbooks and guidebooks that document it, filled with images at once unreal and yet exacting in their specificity, were a staple of my youth. I discovered then that through art one is able to stop time and motion, to see what is usually unseen. In a drawing of a bird, for example, we can understand the appearance of a bird much better than in the field where it is constantly in motion. In contrast, in viewing a drawing we can understand little of how a bird really moves, eats, mates, and lives. In order to communicate aspects of the world, artists must reduce the complex into diagrams and symbols, losing information in the process of gaining it.

Viewing the arc of my career it is an indisputable fact that Nature, both real and imagined, represents the core of my interest and practice. My goal has always been to create work that through the use of symbol and technique has visionary significance to the viewer.