William Stoehr - Artist Statement

For me the essence of art is the exploration of fundamental issues of our time. I explore intolerance, discrimination, addiction and violence with its victims, witnesses and survivors. 


My large portraits start with an ambiguous expression, shared gaze and uncertain context calculated to provoke you into creating the narrative. I suggest certain features and realistically detail others. I use a limited pallet of acrylic paint along with metallic and iridescent colors that produce changing patterns with changes in lighting and view angle. 


Working freely, I drip, brush, pour, scrub and scape paint while applying a variety of lines, dots and other adjustments. I often paint multi-views or facial features slightly out of alignment. I frequently paint vaguely different expressions for each side of the face. These variations might make my images appear more real as time, half remembered memories, and prior experiences affect your perception. 


What is the larger conversation; the wider dialog that I want to be part of? How can I affect and activate viewers? For me this painted dialog is one of the characteristics that define a successful work of art. I have more than 300,000 social media followers. Many of my followers are from war torn areas like Syria and Iraq. They write to me. One day a woman from a Syrian refugee camp wrote to tell me that after seeing one of my paintings that she knew I understood her and that she wanted to die. The next morning, she looked at the same painting and saw hope in the woman’s eyes. She said she knew then that she too could have hope. She told me that I saved her life. This is why I paint.