Ralph Stearns’ love affair with art has taken many twists and turns. He has painted in many styles and worked with several mediums, and now some of his best work will be shown at 9th Street Studios on December 2nd starting at 7:00 p.m.
“This is big to me and I am throwing everything I have into it. The show features two diverse types of art—photorealism, and action pop art performances,” Ralph explained, “Performance art de-emphasizes the art and emphasizes the artist’s actions. Pop art draws its subject matter from American mass media and American consumerism. So it is in that genre that the performance pieces will be created.”
Ralph says that performance art is in the developmental stages. “I hope performance art takes off,” he said, “Performance art will progressively move the art culture forward in Wichita Falls. I hope my performances at the art show will inspire other artists to do the same. It is going to be like Saturday Night Live with a fine art content,” Ralph added, “It is like the theater, and I paint a picture before your very eyes. Performance art focuses on the artist’s body in real time and space. It is live. It is going to be so different than anything you have ever seen before.”
There will be 4 performance art pieces at the art show. While he depicts the various artists he will be speed painting a piece of art. He does it in such a fashion that the audience is surprised by the subject of the painting when he is finished. Even though they are watching, he will astonish those in attendance. The paintings will compliment the performances. In one of the shows he will depict Elvis Presley while painting. Ralph is planning on having a live band to back Elvis up. He will be portraying La Tonka with authentic Native American dancers in full regalia as well. He would also like to have flute players and possibly a drum. The live band will rock and roll when he portrays Jimmy Hendricks while painting, and as his final performance he will draw a caricature of one the guest while explaining how it is done. It will be the first art show of its kind in Wichita Falls, and it will be memorable.
The show will also highlight Ralph’s talent in painting photorealism. This type of art is so precise that it appears to be a photo instead of a painting. “The photorealism paintings are tight. I have got 10 pieces and most of them have never been seen before. I spent up to a month, eight hours a day, painting just one,” Ralph said, “The photorealism is awesome and mind boggling. They have an ‘I can’t believe it is a painting’ feel.” He will also be showcasing new sculptures. “That sparked something in me. I enjoy sculpture. Wildlife sculptor Ralph Stearns—who would have thought,” he said with a grin.
Now if the name Ralph Stearns sounds familiar, it could be because of his many murals painted in the downtown area. Or it could be because of the recent press he has gotten that all started with an illegal painting of a blue egret on the spillway at Lake Wichita. Ralph was actually testing the site to see if a mural could be painted there at the request of a friend interested in one of Ralph’s murals at that location. “I wanted to test the surface and see how it would take the paint,” he said, “This is how I was able to decide what was going to be needed and what it would cost to complete a large mural. The media has brought a lot of attention to the Lake Wichita and has brought a lot of attention to the lake revitalization project; and it all started by painting that illegal egret.” It was unsigned, and there was some question over who painted it until Ralph came forward. The test painting was a success and the Wichita Falls Lake Revitalization (WFLR) committee loved it, along with the citizens of Wichita Falls. After a presentation from Ralph, fleshing out the specifics of the proposed mural, the committee was on board with the idea. He then made a presentation to the city council and the mural was approved pending the ability of the WFLR committee’s ability to raise the funds needed. If the project is funded, the blue egret would be painted over with a big mouth bass jumping up in the air, and would have 2 white egrets flanking it on either side.
After Ralph graduated from Midwestern State University 30 years ago he began to paint billboards. “You would paint one and they would break it up into pieces so that it could be installed,” he explained. He painted advertisements for 15 years until “technology took his job,” and billboards started being produced by machines. Of course, this experience has led to the expert quality of his murals. They are colorful eyes, trains, giant birds, large horny toads and even a cat and a light switch.
Ralph’s murals are just one way that his talent has shown itself. His range of talent is remarkable from the copies of great masters in his house, to the gentle brush strokes of his expressionistic work, to the precise photorealism he will be showing in December.
Whether it is a beautiful mural, or a show stopping performance, you can be guaranteed that you will be seeing more of Ralph Stearns in the future. 9th Street Studio is located at 920 9th Street, at the corner of 9th and Travis.