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 Fred Stonehouse  (1960 - )

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Lived/Active: Wisconsin      Known for: surreal human faces

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Ad Code: 4
Fred Stonehouse
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from

Fred Stonehouse on His Art and Life
Written by: Janet Roberts on 05/31/02 09:00

Fred Stonehouse gave a lecture at MIAD on Thursday, June 6, 2002. Janet Roberts had an opportunity to get together with Fred for a quick interview before the lecture.

I would guess there are few, if any, Milwaukee artists who are not familiar with Fred and his work, but in part, to satisfy my own curiosity, I armed myself with a list of questions, and set up an interview with him.

But first, for maybe that one person out there who has NOT seen Fred's paintings, Fred was born in 1960, is a graduate of UWM, and started exhibiting even before he was out of college. His work is somewhere between surrealism and Mexican folk art, and draws upon personal experience and painters of the Renaissance. He currently exhibits his work nationally and internationally.

MARN: Were you always artistic? Any early childhood remembrances?

Stonehouse: I drew before I can remember-- a mixture in my mind of paint and pleasure. We lived above my grandparents, and I would entertain myself by going to their living quarters and look through a set of encyclopedias they had. I particularly loved the "S" volume-- it had a picture of Saturn plunging into the sea that I found fascinating and wonderful. I took my favorite orange Crayon and "enhanced" it. I felt in this way I was possessing it making it mine. To this day I use such paper from maps, texts and books in my collages. Think of it as "visual chatter".

MARN: When did you decide to formally study art?

Stonehouse: I came from a blue-collar family-- no one had ever gone to college-- it wasn't even a consideration. I had an easy time in school-- didn't study hard, but made O.K. grades. But art was what I found I could do, and do well, so that became my identity. I never thought about later-- about a REAL job, so in the last part of my senior year of high school I participated in ICE (Industrial Cooperative Education) working on cars. I had always kind of enjoyed messing around with mechanics, but came to hate it. I thought, "I can't do THIS for the rest of my life!" Then I thought about what I love to do. It's art. I had sold some things to friends--portraits of pets, etc., but thought, "I can't make a living painting. I have to be practical", so I enrolled in Art Ed. at UWM. The irony is, I never took one education course. I enjoyed the fine art classes so much I decided that when I got out of school I'd just get some crappy-ass job and then do the art I loved in my time off!

MARN: Did this feel "right", or did you feel the need to do things differently--perhaps rebel a bit? Any professor/instructor who stands out in your mind?

Stonehouse: I was most influenced by my job of Art History slide projectionist. I was exposed to art and artists well before my art history classes introduced them, and had time to absorb and think about the ones I was drawn to. Tom Uttech was a professor who impressed me by his dedication to his own work. That is what remains with me. I became a friend of his after graduating, and thought it funny that he had no recollection of me in his classes. John Colt was so excited by art-- that had a lasting impact on me. Adolph Rosenblatt I remember for always taking students to shows at various art museums--stressed the importance of immersing oneself in art-- all kinds of art. Conceptually and spiritually, Steve Foster, who taught photography, had an impact. He would ask good questions-- made us question and dig deep and think about why we were taking a certain direction with art.

MARN: What other artists had an influence on you?

Stonehouse: I had a heavy dose of exposure to early Renaissance art-- very influential. I have always been drawn to artists such as Van Eyck, and love the Northern European and Northern Italian painters. In 1980 I saw the Philip Guston show-- that gave me "permission" to break the mold and paint what I wanted. I was also influenced by Mexican folk art-- liked Freda Kahlo before she was well known. Also, exposure to surrealism by artists like John Wilde was important in the evolution of my work.

MARN: Would you say you are driven by some inner vision/message, or do you paint more as an exploration of undefined feelings and impulses or, just the pleasure of putting paint on canvas and creating things that visually please you?

Stonehouse: Yes, all of those things!

MARN: Do you feel fortunate in having had such early success? How has that impacted your art and its direction? Did this cause any problem?

Stonehouse: Early success has not been a problem-- with the exception of dealers wanting me to stick with what is selling well. They are not anxious to let me move on and take a risk by taking a new direction. I also feel that sometimes the egos of these dealers are a lot bigger than those of the artists!

MARN: What is your feeling regarding the state of the arts in Milwaukee? Do you feel part of a "brotherhood" of artists, or do you pretty much function alone?

Stonehouse: I used to enjoy "hanging out" with friends over a beer and talking art, but now with kids and a family, there is just no time. I feel the younger artists are still doing that, so maybe it's about stages of life. I do feel that kids have given me something that I wouldn't have otherwise-- can't imagine my life without them.

MARN: What would you like viewers "to get" when they study your paintings, or does it matter to you?

Stonehouse: I'd simply like viewers to be excited-- to plug into their own scenarios. I am more interested in what they bring to the experience than if they understand any particular painting. To connect in some way is crucial-- and the reward.

MARN: Any frustrations along the way?

Stonehouse: Frustrations? Art dealers, and the whole business aspect.

MARN: Greatest highs?

Stonehouse: My first show in New York in the early 1990's, and my first Chicago show. "Firsts" are always memorable and exciting. Also the sale of one of my paintings to Madonna.

And with that tantalizing opening, Fred looked at his watch and said, "OOPS, I'm going to be late to pick up my kids got to run. I'll finish that story when I see you at MIAD."

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