Pointing hand in stylized cloud above a newborn child

Richard Stephens, Arrival (Dec. 22, 2023) (2023). Oil on canvas. 37.5 x 60 x 1 in.

Born in Riverside, California, Richard Stephens started painting again in 2023 after a 20 year hiatus. He lives and works in New York City.

His paintings in the Arrival series are what might be called contemplative neo-icons. These vertical-format oil paintings are like pictographs, with an upper symbolic image (Divine) floating over a lower one (Earthly). The Earthly image is a sleeping newborn child surrounded by radiance. The scale of the Arrival paintings ā€“ roughly 5 by 3 foot ā€“ is determined on their inclusion of life-size image of the newborn. The Divine images that appear in the upper area are borrowings from a variety of famous Medieval and Renaissance devotional artworks.

The mature work of Abstract Expressionist Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974) is a direct influence as are Orthodox Christian icons.

The series involves wide variation in color, in paint handling and in choice of specific image. There are also triptych versions featuring three Divine elements above the child.

The overall effect of an Arrival is one of contemplation and reverence, inviting the viewer to reflect on the interplay of the divine and the innocent, the celestial and the nascent life. The painting is intimately tactile and evocative, inviting personal interpretation resonating with the universal themes: the origin of life and of consciousness.