Untitled #12 (Pale green background)

Untitled #12 (Pale green background)

STEVEN CUSHNER (b. Cleveland, Ohio, 1954) legal

Untitled #12 (Pale green background), 1995
watercolor on paper

Collection of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts
Virginia Artists Collection
Gift of Michael David Whaley

All artists intend to communicate something they find significant in a meaningful way.  Conversely, viewers seeks to find ways in which works of art provide a visual equivalent to an idea, event, or feeling. Here the work of Steven Cushner and the experience of collector Michael David Whaley achieve synchronicity. (Whaley donated this work to the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts in 2004.)

Speaking of his starkly abstracted, striking forms, Cushner explains, “I am interested in the physical act of painting, and that my painting shows the history of all the physical acts and gestures. I feel that every mark is important, that the first mark is as important as the last. The painting as an object is an accumulation of all the mistakes, corrections, moves, and decisions that occur while trying to make a vision, a feeling, an experience concrete.” Whaley feels a connection to Cushner’s work as it relates to concepts of time and experience. About these pieces, Whaley thoughtfully offers, “I am fascinated with the idea of time . . . the idea of cycles . . . the fact that our lives are quite limited when it comes to length of time. This lifespan is something, no matter how much we might like to think otherwise, over which we’ve no real control. . . rather like painting wet on wet as Steven Cushner does. There’s really only so much one can control when one paints wet on wet, yet Steven draws out his cycles nonetheless. As in life, the joy is in ‘doing’ and ‘living’ and sometimes beautiful accidents occur along the way.”

This work and another work from this series exhibited here epitomize what has become known as Cushner’s trademark imagery. It is described by W. C. Richardson (art department faculty member, University of Maryland) as a “central, geometric image painted in strong, repeated lines with drippy black acrylic against a colored background.”  Richardson continues, “The drips help anchor the figure to the ground. [Figure here refers to the black abstract shape, ground to the background.] But they also provide a corrosive note, suggesting the effects of weather, pollution and time on the patina of a bronze sculpture, or rain slowly washing the pigment off clapboard siding. They are a reminder that there is a hidden reality beneath the surface of things, a reality that is the essence of existence.”

Steven Cushner received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from the University of Maryland. His works have been shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), Reynolds Gallery (Richmond, Virginia), and SECCA (Winston Salem, NC), among other venues. He has received numerous awards including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Commission on the Arts. He teaches art at George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia) and the Corcoran School of Art (Washington, DC).