An Expressionistic Representationalist Take on Dirtbags
Mar 16, 2016 02:56PM
By James Walmsley
Stephen Dinsmore was meant to be a painter. It just took him about three decades to be at peace with that fact of his life.
“I was not one of those kids who thought of being an artist or had anything to do with it really,” Dinsmore, 63, says from his Lincoln studio. “The art kids always seemed a little bit out there to me. So I went in a different direction.”
The Omaha native went corporate out of college despite becoming hooked on paint and canvas at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. But as Dinsmore began accumulating stuff and status through his steady 9-to-5 as a technical writer, the urge to paint only intensified, which took a toll on his happiness.
“I finally said one day, ‘I’m either going to die the most unhappy, corporate, schlemiel writer in the world or I’m going to start painting,’” Dinsmore says.
At 32, he quit his job, sold his house, and moved to New York City where he painted by night and handled Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko paintings by day. Indeed, it was during this period of Dinsmore’s life—in a warehouse next door to the famous Marlborough Gallery—where the self-described “expressionistic representationalist” says he developed his style and craft.
“I just kept at it and kept at it and I got better and felt stronger and more confident. I started showing and started selling and it started to take hold and I quit my day jobs after five years,” Dinsmore says.
He hasn’t had another job since.
“The key is, the real measure is, if you’ve got that flame that doesn’t go out—that’s really what’s required, that’s what’s going to drive you on through the whole thing,” Dinsmore says, describing how he’s battled artistic setbacks and self-doubt throughout his career. “But without that, it’s unlikely you’ll make it.”
Dinsmore’s style is a polygamous marriage between Expressionism, Americana, and Ashcan art. It’s Norman Rockwell minus the warm fuzzies; Edward Hopper without corrective lenses. There’s a meditativeness and vitality to his soulful landscapes and still lifes. And his baseball paintings drip with mythos and nostalgia.
“There’s such a poetry to the game: the beauty of the field, the ironwork of the stadiums, uniforms, of course, and some of the insignias,” he says. “It’s all really quite beautiful to me. Yet there’s an ennui to it—there’s an emotional pull.”
The artist’s gritty, sometimes bleak depictions of America’s national pastime, he says, can be found most summers at Anderson O’Brien Fine Art during the College World Series. Dinsmore is also represented by Modern Arts Midtown and is a regular at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, among the plethora of galleries that represent him nationally.
Although validating, showing art will never define his career, Dinsmore says.
“If I never sold another painting again and that was the end of it, I’d still be painting,” he says. “It’s something that, when it works, is just so deeply satisfying to me.”