Slipping Into The Velvet Past,  o/c, 48" x 64"

Slipping Into The Velvet Past, o/c, 48" x 64"

Shelley Newman Stevens

JOURNEY: Life From the Inside Out

A journey is a series of experiences from the beginning to the end point, from the first step to the arrival at the final destination.  Life is such a journey and it is punctuated with events, obstacles and circumstances, most of which cannot be foretold.  This series of paintings seeks to distill life’s unforeseen encounters and give visual life to the unseen, but deeply felt effects and responses associated with these experiences; that is to say, what takes place in our hearts and minds.  Each painting is a visual metaphor of the various psychological stages in a journey…any journey large or small…that we embark upon.  The greatest journey, of course, is life itself.

For example, Waiting To Begin depicts through use of the figure, the hope and anticipation experienced at the beginning of a journey.  In youth we await the unfolding of our lives, poised to experience the endless possibilities that surely await us.  We have little personal history to guide us, no past failures to discourage us, no sense of danger to warn us.  We have only our imaginations to propel us.  In such a pure state, we are surrounded by hope and promise, and filled with trust and belief.  We wait with an innocence that is fragile and fleeting. This image portrays that brief and pivotal golden moment known as The Beginning.

Subsequent images within the series metaphorically describe loss or change of direction, indecision, fear and confusion, discouragement, joy, hope and strength as we move further and further into the journey referred to as Life.  This wide range of emotional responses varies from person to person in order of occurrence and to the degree in which it is felt (or allowed to be felt), and at different stages of life and prompted by different circumstances, but what can’t be denied is that our journey shapes each of us in ways we never imagined.

To a certain extent, our course is set before our birth.  Where and when we begin life and into which family we are born is not in our control.  Yet these factors determine to a great extent the path on which we are placed.  Our genetic make-up is determined by our biological parents and ancestry, and as a result, our physical and intellectual traits are established (mapped out) before we even enter the world.  Scientific studies support the theory that even our basic personality traits are largely determined by a combination of nature (genetics) and nurture (the familial environment in which we are raised as well as the social and cultural psychology that exists during our lifetime).  Free will and the relative freedom to make individual choices also influence our destiny.  Faith may guide us, but it doesn’t insulate us from the realities of life.

The path we travel then is established by a complex system of genetics, environment, free will, faith and to some degree – luck. Our individual path determines not only our ultimate destination, but the quality of the journey itself.  It determines how we experience life.  This series of work is not concerned with the destination, but rather the psychology of the journey.

Although we are unique individuals, a trait we share is that we are all altered by our experiences, good and bad.  We are strengthened by love, acceptance and success; hurt by rejection, disappointment and failure.  As individuals, we struggle to maintain our vision amidst the chaos that surrounds us, the injustice, the uncertainty, the inability to right the wrong.  We are blown off path by winds of change, damaged by storms.  We sometimes collapse, sometimes we just fade away, and sometimes we simply live among the lost.

But there is also light.  Sometimes we experience the grace and goodness in life when we least expect it and most desperately need it.  It is in the moments when the clouds part and the sun shines warmly that we are able to fuel our resolve to keep going, to find our footing, and to take the next breath and the next step into the great unknown.  It begins and ends with hope.