Paintings by Stuart D. Hobbs. This exhibition will be available to view in St. Stephen’s sanctuary during the Season After Epiphany, January 6 – March 1.
Sunlight shines on the snow and the light dances and sparkles white and blue and many more colors. And we are moved by what we see. As an abstract painter, I dispense with the middleman and go straight to the colors Or, looked at another way, as a string quartet is a sonic universe all to itself, I see each painting as its own individual place. I’m interested in color and line and brushstroke and how these come together to create a unique universe of beauty. By creating these beautiful places, I am not only expressing myself, but affirming something good and beautiful in humanity. We live in perilous times, and we need beauty to provide us respite, strength, and courage for the journey.
I dreamt that I was assigned to read from an epistle by Paul at a Sunday service. But when I got to the lectern, instead of a page of text, before me was a painting in green and yellow. I had practiced the reading so I was able to recite the letter, but the congregation, unlike what happens at St. Stephen’s, was not paying attention and talking amongst themselves. Fr. Karl came to the lectern to whisper some things I could say to quiet them, but when I looked up, the church was empty.
I do not remember what the painting in the dream looked like—I only know it was green and yellow. So, I painted what you see here.
My typical painting technique is to start with color. I wanted to paint something predominately red along with complementary colors. I put down a coat of maroon, as well as some patches of blue, light green, and peach. Then I layered different shades of red on top of that, first in relatively large swaths, and then increasingly smaller. I finished by adding various color highlights. Only after completing the painting did I find a phrase from a poem by Jane Kenyon that expressed the joy in color that I felt the painting expressed.
One Sunday in Advent 2021, Choirmaster Dennis Davenport included the African-American spiritual, “Lord What a Morning” in the liturgy. As soon as we sang the refrain, “When the Stars Begin to Fall,” I thought of a painting—essentially what you see here. As I worked on the piece, the words, “Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain” from another hymn came to mind and suggested additional imagery. This work, with its stars, and Pentecostal fire, and green shoots, is more metaphorical than is typical of my paintings.
My paintings are primarily about color. That is almost always where I start. They are an invitation to look and observe color and patterns of color; to be in the moment with the painting. After I finished it, the imagery in this painting reminded me of a flower garden, so I choose the title of one of W. S. Merwin’s final books of poetry for my title.
In this work, my subject is blue. It reminded me of the soft blues of a morning in early summer, so I took a the title of a W. S. Merwin poem as my title. Merwin’s poetry is often about being in the present moment and appreciating what you see and hear—about being present to the world. That is ultimately what my paintings are about, also.
Fragmentary pieces of many shades of white and green and red make up this painting, and a line by poet Rainer Maria Rilke inspired the title. The present is a fleeting moment of time. I Invite you to be with this painting. To slow down and enjoy this singular universe of colors. When you leave, I invite you to slow down and look at all the color and form around you.
Light bouncing off surfaces is the ultimate source of color. Light is also hope, and the phrase from a poem by Jane Kenyon that I chose for the title of this painting expresses the hope that we and the beautiful world around us are not destined for death and decay but that, as the hymn puts it, “the universe restored and whole will sing.” Epiphany is the season of revelation, for which light is an appropriate metaphor. So as the days grow longer, let us celebrate the light of awakening and of hope. That idea influenced the choice of colorful, joyful paintings for this exhibition.
Stuart Hobbs is a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. He studied painting at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center. His writings on art history include, The End of the American Avant Garde (New York University Press, 1997) and “Painting the Past: History, Memory, & Community in Modern Ohio” (Ohio History, 2020).
Photographs by Dale Hart. © 2021