Whitehot Magazine

Patrick John Stuver: Topographical Forms

Patrick John Stuver, Mantis, Born Again, 2023, 24 x 48 in. 

By VICTOR SLEDGE May 13, 2024 

Growing up, mixed-media artist Patrick John Stuver’s life was anything but stable. 

“I come from a large family that was completely out of control, with a mother who was bipolar, in a world that was constantly changing for me,” he says. “I struggled as a kid, being a creative free spirit and free thinker, moving a lot, and trying to fit in with every new group. But one thing I did really well was foster my imagination and creativity.” 

As a child, growing up with little to no steadiness forced Stuver into being an alchemist. He may not have had the traditional resources that would have guided his creativity. He may not have had constant support from a lasting relationship with a school art teacher or other adults who could have nurtured his talent. But what he did have was the innate need and ability to create something out of nothing.  

“My dad was always gone,” he explains. “And my mom could barely hang on by the tips of her fingernails, so I didn’t get a lot of stuff. But I made a lot of stuff.” 

Stuver remembers making his first works out of clay from his own yard and other materials he would find exploring the outside world in his solitude. Even then, he jokes about the solo gallery exhibitions he would pretend to host, all before inevitably watching his work be washed away by his parents or the rain.  

But, again, he’s an alchemist. That constant cycle of reconstruction and loss didn’t deter Stuver’s desire. It only taught him how to make it a part of his practice. 

Patrick John Stuver, Diablo II, 2022, 48 x 24 in.

“That taught me to deal with loss and to let go of pieces and ideas. It also instilled in me the desire that if I ever entered into an art practice, I wanted to make stuff that would last generations.” 

Stuver has a commitment to his work’s longevity that can only be born from growing up in a world where seemingly nothing lasts. He may have seen his clay sculptures washed away or the wooden talismans he would make later, which were purposely meant to be picked up by strangers out on hiking trails, he now makes sure that wherever his art lands, it’s sure to be there for years to come.  

As someone who often works with natural materials, found objects and whatever else he comes across between starting a project and the final idea, he considers how the piece will age with time. It’s an important focus to have in his practice because the materials Stuver chooses are unpredictable, to say the least.  

Stuver started as a scavenger of sorts, turning the odds and ends of the world around him into pieces from his own visions. On a recent trip to Montana, for instance, he incorporated plant materials and painted alongside a river en plein air. Being resourceful and seeing the artistic merit of even the most mundane items isn’t foreign to him.

So, now, everything he uses, even in the most remote ways to create a piece, is included in the final product, whether literally or inspirationally. 

“A part of me acquiring what I need to complete a given work is the process of creating and then salvaging all kinds of debris, and I embrace that,” he explains. 

If something he needs gets delivered to him in a cardboard box, odds are that the cardboard box will also somehow become a part of the DNA of that piece. It’s essentially a zero-waste process. 

Patrick John Stuver, Rattled Reality, B, 2023, 24 x 24 in.

“I don’t want to create debris from my creation. Everything I use at that time is a part of what I’m doing, so why not put it into the piece,” he asks. 

For example, he cleans his brushes off on the sides of the canvases he uses, and he paints the backs as well. His highly textured paintings incorporate a variety of materials within the paint, creating topographical forms that navigate both painting and sculptural layers, nature and artifice. So when you get a piece from him, it’s a 360 degree experience. And this is all in addition to the skillful ways he manipulates color and texture in his work. The intention behind Stuver’s practice is matched only by the technical feats he’s able to achieve, especially considering that he isn’t a traditionally trained artist.  

“I didn’t want to become a trained artist in the classic sense and just learn to do stuff that everybody else does. I wanted to create everything that I do from scratch,” he explains. 

On a micro level, Stuver’s practice allows him to let the materials speak for themselves and prove the artful and technically bountiful ways they can contribute to his work. So much so that he doesn’t plan a piece, so to speak. He plans the materials. 

In the same way, on a macro level, Stuver choosing not to pursue the traditional route of a trained artist has allowed his own creative direction to define his style, technicality, and embrace of materiality.  

“I try to embrace anti-art art. I’m looking to say, ‘Yes, I understand the theory, but I think there’s still beauty in what the natural process can create.’ And that’s what I’m constantly trying to pull out.”

What else he’s pulled out is work that constantly pushes the boundaries of the tools one is able to use in art, the technical feats one can reach without formal training and the level of consideration for the collector one can include in their practice.

Stuver is an artist whose work is a testament to what can be found in letting go and allowing the process to breathe and allowing the resources available to you to water your work. His hands may not be as muddy when he works, but Stuver is still living off of the industrious creative spirit he built as a child, and his collectors have a better experience for it.  

To learn more about Patrick John Stuver, you can visit his website at https://www.patrickjohnstuver.com/ and follow him on Instagram @patrickjohnstuver WM

Victor Sledge

Victor Sledge is an Atlanta-based writer with experience in journalism, academic, creative, and business writing. He has a B.A. in English with a concentration in British/American Cultures and a minor in Journalism from Georgia State University. Victor was an Arts & Living reporter for Georgia State’s newspaper, The Signal, which is the largest university newspaper in Georgia.  He spent a year abroad studying English at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, where he served as an editor for their creative magazine before returning to the U.S. as the Communications Ambassador for Georgia State’s African American Male Initiative. He is now a master’s student in Georgia State’s Africana Studies Program, and his research interest is Black representation in media, particularly for Black Americans and Britons. His undergraduate thesis, Black on Black Representation: How to Represent Black Characters in Media, explores the same topic. 

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