Shawn Fields’s current group of paintings are visual descriptions of experiences that symbolize what humanity has in common. In order to recreate these experiences in paint, Fields finds the objects unique to him, that will serve as a building blocks for a narrative. A specific TV, an Afghan blanket, a 1981 Grand Marquis, are collected, arranged; figures are introduced to the composition who can interact with these visual cues, magnify them, and bring them to life. Fields’s goal in every painting is to preserve the original inspiration, the idea that sparked the painting. The editing, and honing, of this idea results in the drawing (and redrawing) which supports each finished painting– a result that Fields hopes most clearly communicates the idea. The studio props, sketches, loose and final paintings here, show in detail the source and the process of Shawn’s work.
Shawn Fields’s studio itself reveals the process from object to image. The space, on the top floor of a former Buggy Whip Factory in New Marlborough, Massachussetts, serves as stage and subject. Stacks of drawings mounted on blue board insulation line the walls. Studies paper every surface. Behind each door, shelf and easel, are paintings, busts, textiles, and musical instruments and other props waiting to be incorporated into the work. Below his studio, on the ground floor, is the furniture maker, New England Modern, who built the box jointed frames finished with milk paint and beeswax for the paintings in this show.
Shawn Fields is a representational artist, telling stories of childhood with convincing detail. Shawn reminds us of the simplicity of a childhood full of resourceful, economical play. His paintings begin centered on a particular object – a “cabbage patch kids” bicycle, a bathing suit, a pillowcase – familiar from his own childhood and echoed in his children’s. The object becomes embedded in layers of narrative until the picture is complete.
He cleverly invents ways to weigh down the mattress beneath the feet of a feather-light child, allowing it to crease and fold in a way that our mind reads as true. He billows the cape of a young boy jousting on his bike, the ribbons and grasses blowing with vigor, capturing the speed the viewer and the child have imagined. Shawn’s paintings signal to our recollection of reality.
Growing up outside of Baltimore, Maryland, Shawn’s early conception of art was formed by a monthly subscription to Mad Magazine, and exposure to traditional American painting and illustration. Shawn studied drawing and painting at the School of Visual Arts, and at the New York Academy of Art. Shawn lives in the Berkshires with his wife and three children.
Gene Wilder turns to the character Veruca Salt in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1969), and says: “We are the music makers, / And we are the dreamers of dreams…”
The children in these drawings and paintings are stand-ins for the universal person. They are celebrating present freedom and possibilities.
“We are the music makers, / And we are the dreamers of dreams, / Wandering by lone sea-breakers, / And sitting by desolate streams;—/ World-losers and world-forsakers, / On whom the pale moon gleams: / Yet we are the movers and shakers / Of the world for ever, it seems.” – Arthur O’Shaunnessy