How’s this for a nightmare scenario: Artist Steven Lee Adams has a show opening on October 24, and he has absolutely zero paintings done for the exhibition. Rather than stressing out, the Utah painter is exhilarated.

“Sparks Lake,” by Steven Lee Adams, 2011, oil, 12 x 12 in.

Adams was deciding what to put in his upcoming show at Mary Williams Fine Arts in Boulder, Colorado, when he had an idea. “Like many artists I am always working up to the last possible minute before I leave for a show,” he wrote on Facebook. “Well, I’ve decided to take the next logical step and actually paint the show while on my way to the show.” Adams was being humorous, but this is essentially his concept. The artist lives in Salt Lake City and his gallery is in Boulder, so why not capture the countryside between here and there in plein air pieces? “The idea was an epiphany I had as I was building these frames and mounting these canvases,” Adams said. (He adheres linen to Gatorboard panels for his surfaces.) “I knew I had a lot of work to do, and I woke up the next morning with the idea and got really excited about it and called the gallery, and they got excited about it, too. It’s a little bit of a high-wire act, for sure.”

Steven Lee Adams painting in American Fork Canyon, Utah

“Path to the Sea,” by Steven Lee Adams, 2011, oil, 12 x 16 in.

The artist will be on the road for two weeks, and whatever he finishes, that’s his show. He is not taking a single finished piece with him. The new paintings, probably 20 in all, will range in width from 30 inches to seven, with most pieces being about 16″ x 24″. Adams is hoping to use a Gloucester-style easel or something similar on the endeavor. He uses Galkyd medium, so most of the paintings will be at least tacky if not relatively dry by the time he arrives at Mary Williams Fine Arts.

Painting “Midway”

To be clear, this is not a carefully planned and rehearsed stunt. In fact, all of Adams’s plein air equipment is stranded in Idaho, through a twist of fate. At this moment, he’s not sure what he’ll be using for the project.

“Midway,” by Steven Lee Adams, 2010, oil, 36 x 36 in.

Also, although he has traversed the land between Salt Lake City and Boulder many times to visit his longtime gallery, he plans on taking a circuitous course on this trip, down to the Four Corners area of Colorado, then upstate to visit family, back roads and scenic byways all the while. “I’m still trying to figure out my trek,” says Adams. “It’s two weeks to wander and not worry about a time schedule other than to be in Boulder in time for the show. I like putting myself in these kinds of situations because I find out what I’m made of. It’s really easy to stay safe. With this, yes, there’s a possibility of failure. But you have to put yourself out there.”

“Tumalo Pond,” by Steven Lee Adams, 2011, oil, 12 x 16 in.

Adams will be posting his exact geographical position and other data and images on his Facebook page as he goes, cross-posting on his gallery’s FB page and entertaining suggestions from visitors on what he should see or paint in the immediate vicinity. “It will be somewhat interactive, and there will be a lot of energy in the paintings for sure,” says the artist.


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