words by SPIROS KATOPODIS for Yass Magazine
photographs courtesy of Richard Stabbert for SDP
Richard Stabbert is a painter whose intention is to express peaceful sensuality. A limited palette, leaning towards pink and blue, blurs the line between the feminine side of masculine. Richard hopes for the viewer’s smile or for their shared journey of having been there at a moment of their own. He is self-taught and he wishes to convey the constancy of love, desire and nature.
Richard loves to draw child-like renderings of pastel summer landscapes and sunbathers interacting through his glorious homoerotic art. Born in 1959, Richard Stabbert documents the people in his life, both past and present, referencing them, the objects around him and his love for the beach. He embraces the simplicity of his style and approaches his work with passion and enthusiasm. Childhood sophistication, whimsical and naïve are words used to describe his work.
We had the pleasure to meet Richard and we present this great artist to you.
Little is known about you. Tell us some things about yourself.
As I begin a painting, it as if I fall in love anew. Every brushstroke can shake me with despair or raise me in triumph. I look to the canvas like the face of a lover, embracing the flaws and in awe of the beauty wondering the future may hold. Some people think that my work is about youth but I don’t perceive it that way. For me it’s a timelessness of who we are as gay men, breaking down a façade and revealing ourselves. A chance to be vulnerable, an agelessness that resides in all of us. The beauty of men in all forms. That’s what I hope my work leaves the viewer with.
Have you always been an artist?
I like to consider myself a painter. I back away from the word artist. It seems too lofty a title. As a shy gay kid, I was always looking for ways of expressing myself, much to the confusion of the adults in the room. So, if not an artist, then always a creative soul.
How would you describe your form of art?
When I first began to paint, some of the early words used to describe my work were “childlike sophistication,” “naïve,” and “whimsical.” I was confronted by those critiques but have now come to embrace them. I don’t know where my art fits into a category, but perhaps that is a good thing. What comes out onto the canvas is merely the expression of the sum of all artists I admire. I keep painting, scratching, brushing, whatever it takes to make it work for me, layers of blue upon blue until it is the color that I want.
What does art mean to you?
Getting lost in painting, in the process of creating, whether it is writing, photography or putting a brush to canvas, all puts me free from constraint. In my studio, it is an expansive universe. Time will fall away. It may be five minutes or five hours that have gone by and I will not have noticed. It is a single brush stroke that can make all the difference bringing me from joy to despair and back again. I am never separate from art. We walk in each other’s company.
Your illustrations demonstrate a bit of nostalgia, melancholy, innocence and seduction. What is the message you want to convey?
I think that you have understood my message. The work conveys all of these elements. Ultimately, I wish for the viewer to be connected to a shared journey, to connect to a memory of a moment of their own. I wish to communicate the constancy of love, desire and nature. Common threads among gay men, a longing for what has passed and a summer’s daydream of what might yet be.
Do your drawings represent real stories of your life or they are just imaginary narratives?
I use the canvas as a sort of journal, a diary, a way of recording personal moments, places and emotions. Encoded in the works are fragments of my life, situations that occurred or only wished to have occurred. Sometimes the inspiration comes from a stranger, sometimes a simple gesture, a smile, or perhaps the gentle movement of a hand that begin to form a narrative for my paintbrush. I am drawn to the sweetness of men, their unguarded moments. These are my elusive attempts to capture beauty.
What are homoerotic inspirations of your work?
A sunlight kiss, the gentle curve of the iliac crest, a lovers’ run into the surf. Some men are generous with their beauty, comfortable in it, willing to share it. It transcends age and physical characteristics. You know it when you see it. Sometimes it could be the glimpse of a man’s ankle or the way a lank stray hair falls to cover his forehead for an instant, such simple yet powerful images.
Ah, the age-old question of nudity vs naked. Being nude represents a sense of playfulness, a comfort in my body, and ultimately the freedom in the revelation of who I am. Naked, on the other hand, has a sense of defencelessness about it. Much like being naked and cold. I prefer the warm sun and the power behind being nude. The images that I present aren’t so much made to entice, but more to lay bare who I am in the world. The viewer can create the story they want to tell.
Would you make a drawing of a fan of your work if they asked you?
I am not technically trained, so my work is more emotionally-based. I find the results to be closer to the truth if I have some connection to a person I am painting. I have challenged myself on occasion by painting someone who has reached out to me on social media. It can be confronting. It is not what they might like to see but my interpretation of how I see them. I have been convinced more than once by a charmingly unaware request to have my record someone’s image “into immortality.” But sometimes I have found that the attempt has pushed me further in my craft than I had expected.
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know, who can say what the future holds? I’ll keep wandering the beaches, keep painting, keep being inspired. I am always surprised as my work keeps evolving. There is no great urgency for me to turn the world upside down. I have already found a place for myself in it. But if the world needs a shaking, and in these days, I think it does, I hope that’s what the future holds for me. If only momentary, I wish for my paintings to bring a peacefulness to an uncertain world.
What makes you happy?
Happiness doesn’t really occur until after the fact when suddenly I realize the feeling that something has made me happy. I’m just in the act of doing. The happiness comes later. If I were to recall a happy memory, it is usually a quieter, simpler moment. A ride on the Ferris wheel, a walk through a Paris park, the sound of an isolated beach, connecting to someone in a profound way. The warmth and safety of holding the hand of someone I love can always make me happy. It’s all there if we can just take the time to realize it.
What are you most proud of?
On an artistic level, I am most proud of how I have matured as an artist. I’ve had a book published on my musings of love and romance. “Provincetown Memories” is for sale around the world and in bookshops in NYC, Provincetown, and Paris. Being included in “100 Artists of the Male Figure,” book by Eric Gibbons, with my simple offerings acknowledged alongside some varied magnificent painters is a humbling feat.
On a personal level, I am proud that my relationship has withstood the test of time, sometimes with only our commitment to seeing it through. Together we have built our family through love, and our now grown son has six children of his own. In there must be some sort of gay historical record.
What has been the best thing that life brought you?
Your curse may be a blessing and your blessing may be a curse. Things have a way of not turning out as planned. I like to believe I have lived a charmed life so far, never having imagined the roads I have taken have led. Without my partner, none of this would have been possible. It has had little interest in the process of art, but great interest in supporting me in a life that I love.
How has social media contributed in making your work popular?
Social media is a crazy wonderful beast. Opening up things that seemed quite impossible only a few years back. The people who have experienced my work has grown immensely. My Facebook friends are of a wide-ranging age whereas on Instagram the followers seem younger. I am always glad when anyone on social media can relate to my expressions of something, perhaps a bit more unaffected or hyper erotic. Then there is Tumblr where all bets are off as to who is seeing what. As for myself, I get to see a world of new creative things that can touch me and sometimes even inspire my paintings.
What is love for you?
Love you say? What is there that I might say that others have said so much more profoundly. But I’ll give it a shot…It is a many splendored thing, always seems to be coming and going, or is it just around the corner? All you need is or is that all there is to love? So fickle, so true, so fleeting, it hurts, it stinks. It lifts us up where we belong. And will it will last a lifetime? In France, it’s been said love has many faces, but in the end, I will only cheer “hooray for love.”
Who are your favourite followers on Instagram?
I’m forever grateful for anyone who would care to take an interest in postings of my work on Instagram. Of course, I love the longstanding followers who were there at the beginning, before I even figured out what I was doing. And new followers are always welcome. Instagram, quite literally opened the world up to my works. I love the international aspect. Followers from many countries, from many languages. It is especially nice if somebody leaves a comment or observation. Or if we don’t speak a mutual language, a heart, a smiley face. Sometimes I can’t quite figure out what some of those emoji’s mean. So I just leave it as they liked it.
Richard’s work can be found in Ray Wiggs Gallery in Provincetown, Sidetracks Gallery in New Hope, PA and online right here at SDP Summer Outpost.
Spiros Katopodis is the founder and editor of the new fresh, queer magazine YASS. Follow Yass Magazine on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
This interview originally appeared in Yass Magazine on January 18, 2018. Republished with permission.