Art Feature: New Skies for Fly-Speck Times

Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


New Skies for Fly-Speck Times
by Stephen Mead

A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is a published artist, writer, maker of short collage-films and poetry/music mp3s. Much can be learned of his multi-media work by placing his name in any search engine. His latest project in-progress, a collaborative effort with composer Kevin MacLeod, is entitled “Whispers of Arias”, a two volume download of narrative poems sung to music. His latest Amazon release, “Weightless,” a poetry-art hybrid, is a meditation on mortality and perseverance.

1.  You mention that a theme of your work is the inevitability of disillusionment.  The work, however, doesn’t give into the disillusion, but seems to challenge it; grappling with it.  The result can be both ghostly and moving.  How do you characterize your work?  What makes art such an effective way to explore these ideas?

I see my work as a spiritual exploration, a way that my life as a human being attempts to understand the experiences of existing in a diverse and complicated universe.  I hope art is an effective way to attempt this, since it is my core method—whereas others might be having similar searches via science, or math, or philosophy, etc.  Personally, when I feel that art is most therapeutic it’s as if some power has emanated from the process even though I may later kick myself, scratch my head and question why I spent my time dabbling away in creativity to begin with!

2. New Skies for Fly-Speck Times is part of a larger project, titled “Our Spirit Life.”  How does this piece factor in to the collection as a whole?  In what ways does working on a collection affect your approach to an individual project?

In some ways, New Skies for Fly-Speck Times serves as a key to the opening of the series, which is about my familial roots. The original image incorporated into the montage is probably 100 years old by now, and it was already sort of haunting to me any of the times I looked at it when growing up. There was a sense of mystery, even adventure there since it was not kept in an album, but either in a box out of reach and then, when my mother and a second cousin, began taking an interest in genealogy; it was kept in a large heavy illustrated bible. Looking at it always felt like some sort of passage back into time and the strangeness that I was living in a changed version of the original house in that photo.

Working on a collection in some ways is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, or disparate fragments of a map. The way things takes shape is amorphous and I may not even be able to entirely see/grasp a piece or how it fits with another. There have been many occasions when I have begun, even finished what I thought of as a “stand-alone” work only to later realize it as piece of thread in a much larger weaving, so it’s very important to just try and be patient, respect the process, and later learn if it is actually finished or not.

3. How would you describe your creative process?

I see my creative process somewhat as flying by the seat of my pants. By this I mean I don’t always know what the heck I am doing or if I even have the chops to pull this nebulous “thing” off. There are times when a finished image does overlap with one I have carried inside of me but how it got there took me on some bumpy turns along the way with what the media I experiment with are teaching me. I don’t particularly see myself as confident in any area of my life so there is some large part of me which just trusts intuition, trusts the road of the journey itself for I just have to acknowledge that I don’t have complete control or a innovative forerunner’s sterling sense of either vision or purpose! 

4. You described your relationship to art as “instinctive.” We loved this, and would like to hear you elaborate on how this has shaped you as an artist.

I think a lot of the instinctive part has been touched upon in the answers above, but there are some clear-cut examples. My very early work was steeped in pastels and for some reason the ideas of impressionism and pointillism. God only knows why. Then, down the road, a friend of mine gave me an old box of watercolor pencils, perhaps made in the 1960s, that her Mom got at a garage sale and wanted me to have. By then I had gone from pastels to mixing mediums, say oils, watercolors and pastels all in one piece, but I was really curious as to what these watercolor pencils could do, since they have the capacity both as a line drawing and then for shading and mixing. In my head I kept seeing them as stained glass and am not sure where I even came up with the idea of using them on canvass paper so I could take paper towels or q-tips to wipe color away, leaving a sort of radiance thanks to the surrounding colors/lines which remained. Then, as I got older, I felt the need more for textures in my work, like this palpable ache in my hands, whereas simultaneously I wanted to get back the openness of a child just plopping down with the various crafts an art teacher might pull out of a box. For all of these various changes in my work it is not as if I sat down to write a list of goals or like, plan an itinerary as though for a trip. It was more like well, hmm, let’s try this and see how it goes.

5. What was the most profound moment for you as an artist?

I don’t believe there has been one profound moment or great epiphany, sorry! There have been little like pings of ecstasy and excitement however, say, while being immersed in a piece, and suddenly realizing, with a sort of déjà vu, that this is something I have dreamt, something welling up deep from my subconscious that I forgot. There’s also been moments when I have found myself having a sort of ache, near tears, while working on a piece and other times, while looking at another’s work, where I have actually cried. Seeing Monet’s Water Lilies or Van Gogh’s Starry Night, for example, but I think mostly I should have drunk a stronger cup of coffee to start the day with, or remembered to have lunch, and just stopped being soppy.

6.  If you could turn our readers on to one artist, who would it be?

Well, right now I would say my dear friend, Maureen McCabe. She is a bit younger than me, (drat), but we have known one another since our late-teens, being there, often at long distance, as we’ve gone through personal struggles in addition to the age-old existential dilemma of why do art,? She finally worked up the nerve to put up a website, so here is a plug.

7.  What’s your favorite book, or author?

I can’t say I have one favorite, but there are certain ones I look forward to reading, and then re-reading. The latest book which comes to mind is John Irving’s In One Person.


8.  Thanks again for sharing your time and insights with us.  Last but not least, do you have any other projects in the works that you’d like to tell our readers about?
A project which I’ve been steeped in since at least 2009 (Our Spirit Life just crept in in the midst of it), is entitled According to the Order of Nature (We too are Cosmos Made), a mixed media series which deals with the wording that has persecuted LGBT people for centuries and turns it on its head. I have incorporated a couple of studies from it and tied it into “one-off” projects of art-as-activism, such as Postcard For Humanity. Further details can be found here.

Cisco Covino is a writer and graphic artist and aesthetic scientist.  He received his MFA in fiction from Fairfield University and currently teaches at Johnson & Wales University.  His work has appeared in such publications as Now What?,, and Old Time Family Baseball.  He can usually be found riding his bike through the sweet absurdity of Boston, MA.

**Cisco also serves as Spry‘s Graphic Designer. 

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