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Jean Marie Keevins (Playwrite, Producer and Puppet Artist) and Kevin Stanton (Painter) outside of Stanton's Barn/Studio in Nantucket, MA.  Photo by Kathy Kelm of NISDA.

Jean Marie Keevins (Playwright, Producer and Puppet Artist) and Kevin Stanton (Painter) outside of Stanton’s Barn/Studio in Nantucket, MA. Photo by Kathy Kelm of NISDA.

Several weeks ago while sitting at a picnic table at the Harbor Cottages of NISDA (Nantucket Island School of Design & the Arts) where I am in residence, I was speaking with the Artistic Director, Kathy Kelm, about arts on the island. I came to the island expecting that it would live up to it’s reputation of being over run with artists. But so far, that’s not what I am finding. I have been to a few gallery openings and met a few painters, photographers, musicians, poets and instillation artists as I’ve moved along, but I’ve only met one or two artists that really blew my mind. I was lamenting to Kathy that while I feel that I have made many new friends on the island and perhaps met a few future colleagues, I haven’t found any real collaborators. I see the talent that surrounds me and I am grateful to be inspired by it, but there is something missing for me. So, as she does, she started looking through her pile of papers for a connection and in it, I saw the flyer. “Who’s that”? “That’s Kevin Stanton. He’s wonderful”. “Can I meet him”? And so it began.

Earlier this week, after coordinating the meeting, Kathy generously drove me out of town and down the long, bumpy dirt road that led to the barn where Kevin paints, and paints and paints. We pulled into the driveway and in front of us was an old rundown barn covered on the outside with amazing art and inspiring pieces of driftwood (something that I confess to being a total sucker for). Kevin, a smart, sweet, unassuming, funny young guy works all summer long in this barn and thank God he does, because this guy paint. After taking the requisite photos for future press (included here), Kathy took off and left Kevin and I to talk art. For the first time since I’ve been on the island I thought, “now this is guy I could work with”! His work is thoughtful, interesting and forward thinking. If you ask him a question, he has an answer. Even though much of his work is instinctual and clearly based on memory and sensory, it is also thoughtful and educated. When we were talking about process and getting into one’s work, Kevin described the zone, the same way I would. “I just go”. I totally get this. You have an idea and you just run with it. You don’t think. You just let yourself be the vessel. Then afterward, when you take a step away from your work you can see all of your influences and reflect back on where the specific ideas came from. You may start with a specific intent, but then you “just go”. You can an always clean it up later.

My process since I have been on the island has been a bit more start and stop then usual, but I think that’s because the starts are typically the starts of a marathon. The kind of sessions where I work for hours on end before realizing that I haven’t eaten or relieved myself in hours. I think that most artists would agree, those are the best sessions and they can’t be fabricated. They come if you let them. Neil Young once did an amazing interview on Charlie Rose where he talked about being the vessel and allowing the gift. It was a life changing conversation to listen in on. Spending time with Kevin reminded me of that interview in that his spirit gives one permission to take risks, or at least it encourages that. His energy is the kind of creative energy that I love to spend time with when I’m “in process”. This is a man who is excited about life and I for one am excited about his work. It’s current and urban but intentionally classical all at once.   So here’s my advice to you, one human being to another. If you get the chance to spend time with Kevin Stanton, do. Listen, don’t talk until you’ve really heard him out. If you get the chance to buy a work of his, do. His work is thought provoking, inspiring and with any luck, going fast. And perhaps most importantly, if you get a chance to show Kevin’s work, please do. More people deserve to be inspired by his spirit and talent as I have. Although from where I stand, for now, I’m just grateful to have a new friend.