Stephen Basso's highly original pastels and oil paintings are romantic, yet thought provoking fantasies. His whimsical works are alive with boundless imagination, wry wit and fearless color. Mr. Basso’s works evoke a high level of inquiry. The fanciful, yet keenly observed characters are unpredictable and evocative. The viewer vacillates between surprise, delight, and consternation.
A Brooklyn native, much of Basso's wildly imaginative artwork was inspired by travel to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and especially Mexico. Combining a New York and a Mexican sensibility, he says of his work, "There is a natural surreal quality to Mexico that can collide with its harsh realities. One might call it bittersweet. It is often bawdy, but rarely vulgar, and images are everywhere. Love, hate, fear desire and of course, humor, never go out of style.” And he adds, " I like mixing high ideals with American irreverence."
The elements of mystery, escapism, and humor blended with reality define his art. It is of a personal nature consisting of a cast of characters that inhabit the stage between the extreme highs and lows of life, a state of limbo where dreamlike scenarios are often pulled back to the reality of daily existence. Of his process, Mr. Basso says, "The paintings and drawings begin with objects around my home and studio, photos from various sources, and people I know, have known, or have yet to meet."
By in large, Basso is self taught. (After initially attending the School of Visual Arts for Illustration, he realized painting was more engaging for him.) Seeking emotional honesty, he looked to the work of several "mentors": Max Beckmann, Francisco Goya, Willem de Kooning , Philip Guston , Marsden Hartley and Albert Pinkham Ryder - artists that spoke to the human condition.