“The world according to Robert Stivers is an anxious place in which vision of all is impaired, and in which no one, introvert or extrovert, can immediately feel entirely comfortable or secure…” A.D. Coleman
Robert Stivers’ photographs hover somewhere between the realms of representation and the actual. Objects, bodies, other works of art and nature all serve as raw materials; his pictures are his vision. There are diverse and sundry elements that have always infused Stivers’ work; Romanticism, mysticism, Gothic and Baroque art, Symbolism and film, as well as architecture, dance and design. All of these hold a place of value in Stivers’ creative arsenal.
But although many of his photographs seem to borrow or relate to earlier periods of culture and art, Stivers is resolutely of the moment, of the here and now, inflecting his pictures with a contemporary edge that eerily recalls the past, dredged up as if in a séance. This is what gives his imagery such power over the viewer. We recognize ourselves in the photographs—if only for second, before the mind continues to wander through the decadent layers of his work.
“I believe it is the true nature of photography not necessarily to document, but to alter or transform the scene or event-
whether contrived or not-into a personal alternate reality.”
In Sestina, Stivers has produced a most unusual suite of photographs. Originating in the twelfth century, the Sestina is considered the most complex of the various French poetic forms, demanding a repetition of words—not ideas. Although difficult to master, the Sestina was practiced with great success by Swinburn, Kipling and Auden and transformed by poets including Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and Elizabeth Bishop.
The evolution of the “Sestina” might help to situate the oscillating historical and contemporary elements so prominent in Stivers’ photographs—the present somehow telescoping the past; Stivers’ rejection of an orthodoxy in representation or strict adherence to any set rules in picture making. With “Sestina,” Stivers has reached one of the pinnacle moments of his career, composing photographs of lasting beauty that will resonate for all time.
Accompanying the exhibition is a limited edition book, presented in a clamshell box, which contains a signed gelatin silver print from the series.