Manuel Arce 2004


I was introduced to Stephen in mid 2003 after he completed a fellowship residency at the Julia and David White Artists' Colony in Ciudad Colón, Costa Rica. We began exchanging emails and I became very much surprised if not intrigued by the passion this artist felt for Costa Rica and our people. Stephen had traveled to our country several times, knew the country quite well and had many friends – local artists and other friends from all socio-economic levels and ages.

In February 2004, I finally met him personally, when he came back to set up his latest exhibition "Landscapes- Views From Above And Below ", at the National Gallery – Children's Museum in San Jose. Upon meeting Stephen for the first time, I immediately realized why he was different in so many ways from other visiting foreign artists that I frequently meet. He had captured in his artistic mind and eyes a sense of appreciation- for the beauty of our natural resources as well as an understanding of our culture and for the way our people live.

Upon seeing his art pieces, I found them all very beautiful and colorful and discovered that his art represented more than what they intended. We talked about his art. He explained to me how while on a flight, looking through the airplane's window down at the geography, he had made the drawings on disposable air sickness bags, drawings that would later be studies for his paintings. The scenery he saw from the high altitude was determined by a diversity of variables. Some views had been designed by Mother Nature (mountain ranges, forests rivers, sea coast, etc); others by the local farmers according to the time of the year, the different agriculture and time of harvest. Stephen, without knowing it, reflected in his work one very important social fact of this country which stands as a solid principle of Costa Rica's centennial democracy: the scheme of small-land property ownership, which determined the multiple pattern of shapes and colors within Stephen's compositions.

The beauty and representation of Stephen's work made me realize that his exhibition deserved a much larger audience in our country. This led to negotiations to expand the tour including several other gallery venues. Upon the inauguration event for the exhibition at our gallery site in the city of Cartago, a student pointed out the diversity of colors and composition within his artwork. My impression that evening, as well as the student and others who attended the ceremony, recognized not only the artistic quality of the artist, but more than that, his unique way to represent our land, a land blessed by God and admired and respected by friends like the artist Stephen Robert Johns.