Stephen Cefalo, painter of lush, masterly narrative portraits, opens a new show Saturday at Gallery 26, 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd. Here’s his statement about the new works in “The World is Flat”:
Although modern string theorists tell us that there are at least ten dimensions, we can only experience the first four: height, width, depth, and time. In terms of perception by the senses, the other six are not there. Eighteenth Century philosopher George Berkeley went so far as to deny material substance altogether, claiming “esse est percipi” or “to be is to be perceived”. In other words, without a perceiver nothing can exist. A painter is not a knower, but a perceiver, and lives in a world of perception. The painter’s world is not that of science, but of magic and alchemy. Although he knows from science books and satellite photos that the world is round, he experiences it as flat. The world ends where his experiences end, and sea monsters may still lurk in the margins.
To paint in an age of rapid-fire imagery is the ultimate act of anachronism. In the “information age” we are bombarded with advertisements and opinions, but aesthetic experience has no such agenda, and does not tell the viewer what to think. A painting is a free space in which life can still be mysterious, mystical, and full of wonder. It is unstifled by science, politics, dogma, and the great tyranny of fashion. Its only limitations are the rules of form, design, and the edges of the canvas. While the world of technology is rapidly and exponentially changing and growing, painting has scarcely changed since the wall paintings on the caves of Southern France, and will categorically remain unchanged.
This is not a refutation of progress, but a celebration of perception, and of the unknown. Retreat with me for a moment back to the cave, and let’s wonder at the dancing shadows on the wall.
The artist’s reception is 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with music by the Rolling Blackouts.