Like most visual artists, Marie Stephens loves a blank page or canvas – so many possibilities – and her meditative blending of colors to make profoundly personal works of art.
The Davenport painter is bringing her love of nature in a favorite artwork (“Sunrise on the Farm,” which she did about a month ago) to be donated among many this weekend for the annual Figge Art Museum fundraiser, “Art Off the Wall.”
The event is Sunday, Nov. 12 from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at the museum, 225 W. 2nd St., Davenport. Everyone is welcome—from seasoned collectors to those just beginning their journey into art appreciation. Bid on over 100 carefully selected pieces of art in a variety of mediums while indulging in delightful brunch bites and a complimentary mimosa bar.
A 1998 graduate of Iowa State who majored in horticulture, Stephens describes herself as a “multidisciplinary artist who loves flowers, animals, nature, its elements, and the good nature of people.”
Her Iowa farm painting is from her in-laws’ farm in Mount Ayr, Iowa, where she and her husband cut flowers (for commercial sale, like at Whole Foods stores) for seven years until 2007. The view is from their farm, out their dining room window.
“I love this view so much that I want collectors around the world to be able to experience it in their own homes and offices, to serve as a reminder of hope and optimism that comes with a new day,” Stephens wrote for her website. “I want share this beautiful light with anyone longing for a brighter view.
“There’s nothing quite like those first glimpses of light as the sun peeks out over the horizon, creating a dynamic show of light and shadow, playing off clouds, dust particles, and heat waves rising from the earth,” she wrote. “Everything seems possible at this hour, perhaps because the amazing beauty our eyes behold seems so impossible. I believe that this piece represents a feeling of hope and optimism that comes with the start of each new day.”
Stephens caught the scene on camera during the sunrise of their last visit in September 2023.
“My favorite colors have always been purple and pink, and they’re the same colors in sunrises and sunsets,” she said Tuesday in Davenport. “The reason why I paint these things is the feeling – it gives me feelings of hope and optimism.”
“That’s the way you feel when you see a sunrise or sunset – the dancing colors of light,” Stephens said.
“These two cows were there the morning I took this photo, just hanging out there,” she recalled. “This painting I’m really proud of, because it’s one of the first ones I achieved depth, the way the sky and clouds are coming out and you can look into it.”
At that Iowa farm, it’s so quiet, you can hear cows eating grass and bees buzzing on their morning commute, Stephens said.
“You can hear a cow mooing a mile away,” she said. “That’s the feeling — that stillness. Even though it’s quiet, it’s not.”
“When I was out picking flowers, by myself, it’s constant zooming of birds and bees and everything,” Stephens said.
She and her husband Tim were both horticulture majors at Iowa State, and he works as horticulture supervisor for the Davenport Parks Department at Vander Veer Park.
They have two sons – Harrison, 18, who’s a freshman at University of Iowa, and Ben, 13, who are both really into music.
They call their van the “Van Gogh,” and Stephens enjoyed painting a sunflower field behind the Mount Ayr farm. After they moved back to the QC, she worked at Vander Veer for three years and formed her own art business in 2017.
New for Figge benefit
This is the first year Stephens has donated a painting for “Art Off the Wall,” and the Figge contacted her after finding her in the Quad City Arts artist directory.
She has never exhibited at Quad City Arts before, but has at the old ARTery when it was in downtown Rock Island.
During the pandemic, Stephens focused on her website, and selling her art that way. She also would hold live online sessions, highlighting several of her pieces.
In addition to the one original sunrise painting (fluid acrylic on Gesso board, in a solid maple frame, valued at $750), she’s offering prints and greeting cards of it and a portion of all those sales through December will go to the Figge.
The smooth painting was varnished multiple times.
Using oils don’t dry very fast, “so you have more time to think, whereas this, you have to work fast,” she said Tuesday of acrylic. “I love oils because I can relax and take my time, and I love mixing and blending. But I found this fluid acrylic, because they dry so fast, you can work faster and get a totally different effect, because they’re still blended — but the further you step away from it, the better the painting looks.”
Each kind of paint is like a different musical instrument — adding its own color and texture, Stephens said.
She got a Figge membership last year and has taken one of their art therapy classes there.
Art itself is therapeutic for Stephens and art lovers.
“Especially when I work with oils — when I’m just mixing the paint, that’s where I get the most therapy out of it,” she said. “I feel the most relaxed is then, when I’m mixing. My palette is almost better than my finished paintings. Those are things I like to collect, are my palettes. It’s all happening organically and I’m just watching the whole thing evolve. It’s like watching the sky, if you think about it.”
“I like how art does connect people and something like the sky — you may not have access to an art museum, but everybody can always look up,” Stephens said. “That connects us and brings us together and gives us a sense of hope and optimism, when there’s a lot of darkness going on.”
For people absorbing art into their soul, she also wants to evoke hope and possibilities, like the dawn of a new day at sunrise.
Affordable original art
With starting bids as low as $50, the Figge says “Art Off The Wall” is a perfect opportunity for everyone to take part in the thrill of an art auction and walk away with an affordable, one-of-a-kind art treasure that you’ll enjoy for years.
More than a quarter of the works featured at this year’s Art Off the Wall have been donated by local artists, to celebrate and explore the creativity of the Quad Cities community. From charming paintings to intricate ceramics, timeless antiques to captivating photography, and exquisite sculptures to elegant jewelry, you’re sure to find something to spark your 2024 art aesthetic, according to a Figge release.
“Art Off the Wall provides a unique and affordable opportunity for anyone who loves art to acquire exciting pieces, but it also plays a vital role in supporting the Figge’s mission of bringing art and people together,” said Figge director of development Patrick Downing. “We are excited to see our community come together to celebrate the beauty of art and build a stronger connection to our museum.”
For those who are unable to attend in person, there is an online raffle opportunity. Purchase raffle tickets to win the stunning vase “Textured Tall Orange” by Bettendorf artist Steve Sinner, valued at $525. Raffle tickets are $10 for a single ticket, $25 for three and $40 for five tickets. All proceeds benefit the Figge.
Admission to the event is $25. For more information and to purchase event and raffle tickets, visit the Figge website HERE.