I’d like to thank Germaine Pataki-Thériault of Gallery 78 and Andrew Kierstead of the SJAC for encouraging me to apply to have this exhibition and to everyone at both galleries for all their help and support in mounting it. I’d also like to thank all the people who were willing to lend their works to the exhibition. It would have been a much poorer show without their paintings and drawings.
This is an unusual exhibition for me. I don’t normally make or choose works for an exhibition based on a theme or subject matter that connects each individual work to the others. I usually make my decisions based on whether I think each individual work is good or not. I know there are good paintings of flowers or landscapes or people’s heads just as there are no-so-good ones of those things. Most of my struggles as an artist are involved in the complex and mysterious nature of goodness.
Though I do hope the works collected here are good, I think this exhibition selection is interesting as subject matter in two ways.
This collection represents forty years of doing self portraits. It is arranged in roughly chronological order. I’m hoping it will have the effect of a kind of time lapse record of what happens to a man’s face as he ages from 20 years old to 60 years old.
They also show a time lapse view of the changes in this particular artist’s style over that same period. I don’t pay much attention to my changing style despite being aware that it does change. I think I can attribute the changes to having been inspired by particular artists and particular art movements over the years. That inspiration is my reason for painting. A vein of goodness flows through our history.
Stephen May was born in Témiscaming, Quebec in 1957. In 1976, after one year of study in the Photographic Arts Program at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, Stephen began to attend art classes at the Ottawa School of Art. Three years later he enrolled in the Fine Arts program at Mount Allison University, from which he graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
Following his formal education, Stephen travelled through Europe with his future wife Julie Scriver for eight months exploring collections of great art to deepen his appreciation and knowledge. On his return from Europe they married and he accepted a seasonal position with Theatre New Brunswick as a prop builder, allowing him five months per year to pursue painting full time. After being awarded a Canada Council “B” grant in 1992, Stephen was able to take a one-year sabbatical from Theatre New Brunswick which provided a stepping stone to his decision to resign and paint full time, which he has been successfully doing since 1996.
Stephen has been a resident of Fredericton since 1984. In that time, he has exhibited extensively, been an active member of the arts community both professionally and as a volunteer, raised two daughters with his then wife Julie, and been formally recognized as one of the province’s most respected painters. Gallery 78 has represented Stephen since he assumed residency in Fredericton, and has presented many solo and group exhibitions of his work. In 2006 the Beaverbrook Art Gallery presented Stephen May: Embodiments, a solo retrospective, and in April 2007 Stephen was awarded the prestigious Miller Brittain Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts.