In the exhibit Soul Season, San Francisco artist Charles H. Stinson uses his art in contemplation of cyclical patterns of life and nature. From seemingly “wild” bamboo sculptural forms to playful yet dark intaglio prints and collages, Stinson acts as gardener, shaping and ordering his highly evocative forms to create a mesmerizing exhibit which encourages active, though meditative participation from the viewer.
“The works invite one to sense the subtle space and breath within and between manifested objects--to slow down a moment in this age of immediacy and instantaneous access,” says Stinson.
His use of bamboo reflects the material’s rich symbolic and cultural heritage in Asian cultures, where bamboo represents longevity, durability, flexibility and grace. The artist points to its ability to “survive the harshest conditions,” including natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes. “It bends but does not easily break.”
Continuing the themes suggested by his sculpture, Stinson’s intaglio prints and collages often employ archetypal skeletal images smiling wryly through the most dreadful circumstances. Whispers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland breathe playfully absurdist yet nevertheless serious life into the narratives, which do not shy from tense topics of politics, warfare, environmental abuse, sexism, racism, and runaway inequality.
“As a child I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass countless times. I think Charles Dodgson’s (pen name, Lewis Carroll) fantastic imagery, superbly nonsensical language, and playfully twisted logic helped me make absurdist sense of an equally nonsensical world, which was racing to war and playing dangerous games with the environment.”
The artist points to the way that the Information Age, with its access to volumes of information and hyper-efficient communication, are transforming “our lives and tribes.”
“Will the deluge of facts, knowledge, and feelings enable us to examine old beliefs in new light? Or will it simply sweep over us as we absurdly cling to old ways of a world long past?”
While Stinson’s work may not definitively answer these questions, Soul Season does provide an artful backdrop which inspires consideration of these and other pressing themes.