BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT | STEPHEN MANGUM
My breakthrough moment happened early one morning in April 2017. After the November 2016 election, I was disillusioned with the world in general and languishing with my work. Responding to the political environment, I had made a large-scale painting on a refugee theme that was successful and sold quickly, then followed that with another large painting alluding to the immigration ban. As I worked, however, my despair was escalating and I felt I was losing connection with the painting; I hated it as soon as it was finished. My spirit was low and my work reflected it. I could not see a way forward.
A few days later, I woke up early and immediately went to the studio to start a new painting with the sole aim of rekindling my faith in humanity, to find hope. This was the first time I began making a painting for myself, without regard for how it would be received by others. I remembered a photo of a joyous, radiant woman I had taken at a street festival in San Francisco a couple of years earlier, and used it as my reference. I then pinned a print of John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew of Lochlaw on the wall for inspiration and started working. I titled my painting Lady Fillmore, in deference to Sargent and referencing Fillmore Street where I had seen the woman. Shortly after I finished the painting, I entered it in a national juried competition and was awarded Best in Show.
Since then, I have continued with large-scale portraits of amazing everyday people and loving working again. I believe the human spirit will prevail.
Stephen Mangum is a representational painter from San Francisco. Born in 1954 in Mississippi and a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, he has been juried into and won awards in numerous competitions. His work has been published in the Circle Quarterly Art Review, Create!, Studio Visit, and Artist Portfolio Magazine. In 2017, he was a finalist in two categories of The Artist’s Magazine’s Annual Competition. Painting in an expressive realism style, his most recent works have been large-scale portraits of ordinary people from chance encounters in which he seeks to find the beauty inherent in sheer humanness. Across figurative, portrait and still life formats, he creates contemporary phrases in the verse of life. His work is in private collections across the U.S.