Cosmic art: A gaudy visual quick-fix

From a distance, Micah Stebbins’ sky/cosmos-infused oil paintings look like marbles. Cosmic swaths of sky blue, sea blue, purple, and milky white wrap around his canvases like twisted ribbons around Maypoles. Tiny orbs like air bubbles trapped in glass hover all over them. With their glossy surfaces and fruity stripes, Stebbins’ paintings also look a bit like hard candy.
One painting in particular– “Cumulomeandrous,” a small, circular painting in dark blue, with long, lithe clouds whirlpooling into the center– looks like a giant mint hanging on the wall. The second impression is the lasting one. The ultra-busy, fantastic space-scapes Stebbins includes in his latest exhibit are bright, shiny things which easily catch the eye. But like the quick, responsibility-free sugar rush of candy, Stebbins’ visual quick-fix paintings gorge the eyes at once and then cease to hold much interest thereafter.
Three of the more spectacle-laden paintings share the same color scheme and many of the same elements. In “Spring’s Special Flavor,” “Star Wash,” and “Mandala,” layers of twisting color share space with swarms of clouds– pointed and thin at the ends, tightly curled in the center, pointed stars, and jawbreaker planets.
It is impressive just how tightly packed with detail his paintings can be, though the repetition quickly wears. The variation between those three comes only in the large-scale arrangement of elements. 
In “Spring’s” the movement draws the eye diagonally across the canvas, while “Mandala” is a giant, intergalactic swirl (a pattern that repeats in several paintings) in which everything leans toward an indistinct mass at the center. “Spring’s” does attempt some games with perspective. A tree  has set its roots in one of these long stripes stretched across the painting. Set off in the corner, it’s more of an afterthought or short tangent than anything like a departure.

Micah Stebbins’ paintings hang through at Higher Grounds. 211 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 971-8743.

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