Local artist Stephen Long has an art history background, and it was through learning the stories of famous creatives that he realized his calling.
“Vincent van Gogh, Andy Warhol and Gustav Klimt loved what they did and it showed. If they hadn’t had art in their lives, they probably wouldn’t have lived as long,” says Lange. “This is how I see art. I love being alive and I make art to prove it.”
Among his many projects, Lange collects ginkgo leaves that fall on Wall Street and stamps them with custom Japanese woodblock prints reading “Happiness,” “Prosperity,” “Wisheit,” and “Love.” Once he’s done, he scatters them back onto the sidewalks for people to spot. As he collects the flora, Lange also looks for gingko leaves with a perfect heart shape, which he believes occur at a frequency of one in a hundred, to more fully connect with the project.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, Xpress met with Lange and other artists from the region to talk about the influence of love on their work and their outlook on life. For these creatives, emotion is an integral part – if not the driving force – of their creations.
sit with it
With a gallery called Heartful Art in the River Arts District, love’s influence is easy to see Raphaella Vaisseau‘s work. But it’s the artist’s chosen name, Vaisseau (which means “vessel” in French) that really reflects her values, she says.
“That best describes what I think about my art: I am a vessel,” she says. “People ask me if it’s hard to let go of an image I’ve been working on for years. I tell them, ‘No. I paint for you.’”
Contemplation also plays a role in Vaisseau’s work. The self-taught artist notes that she has practiced meditation for nearly 50 years, which makes it easy for her to focus on her love of nature, color and creativity.
“My dedication is to increasingly align with the best in life, the best of all of us, and to express that in my art,” she says. “My art is an expression of my love for life.”
painter Lori Portkawhose studio is at the RAD, their approach to their creative process is similar.
“I don’t usually just start painting,” explains Portka. “I usually sit and think about what I’m grateful for and what’s close to my heart at that moment. I like to think about how I want the world to be and then I start painting.”
give and receive
Since 2019, Portka’s work has been featured in Mission Hospital’s pediatric wing. As part of the application process, Portka explains, she included comments that clients had left her on her website. As Portka took a closer look at these statements, she was surprised to learn that many people gave their art as gifts to loved ones who were ill, depressed, or generally going through a difficult time.
“It meant a lot to me,” she says. “People will also write to me and say that someone gave them my art when they were going through something difficult and that things are much better now – but that they still have the art hanging to remind them that.” they got over it. They find a meaning that feels kind of deep for an artwork, which makes me feel really good.”
For Vaisseau, the feedback is often visceral rather than verbal. Although she has painted many hearts over the years and believes in the power of such images to remind the viewer to trust their own heart above all else, she feels her love is just as present in her floral and abstract designs.
“If someone walks into the gallery and bursts into tears when they see a certain painting on the wall, I know I painted it for them,” she says. “I trust the process of my art and know that the people who love the essence of my artistic expression will find me.”
Meanwhile, hearts have been a more prominent topic in Lange’s work since 2008, when he nearly lost his son, who had to be flown to Duke University Hospital for open-heart surgery at 13 days old. The process was a success and made Lange more aware of instilling a love of family, place and art in his creations.
Including his series “Krush”, which he is launching for Valentine’s Day.
“The idea is to give one of these pieces to someone you have a crush on, and when they see the wrapped heart, they know they’re loved,” says Lange. “I’ve heard that there have been a few marriages because someone gave away one of my pieces to someone they had a crush on. I love that because that’s what I made them for.”