Shortridge is best known for intimate interiors dominated by a shiny black piano. In most, sheet music lies open in the piano's music stand. To add rich theatrical contrast, Shortridge juxtaposes the piano against a broad expanse of window that floods the room with searing white light. Whether you play or merely listen, these paintings resonate with the serenity and quietude that lingers after practice or the final notes of an impromptu recital on a summer afternoon. Shortridge reinforces this pervasive feeling of reverie with title names such as Serene Splendor, Musical Solitude, Afternoon Nap, Simple Pleasures, Rich Tones, Play the Light and Summer Symphony.
“I do play,” Shortridge will tell you, “but I’m a better songwriter than musician. I have trouble reading sheet music.” He discovered a few years ago that he’s dyslexic when it comes to reading music. So when he plays, it’s primarily by ear.
His piano interiors are highly popular, and some 14 years ago a photo of one of them caught Suzanne DeBruyne’s unerring eye as she was thumbing through a minor art publication. “The picture was grainy, but I knew instantly that we had to have him.” She immediately brought the [then] Iowa artist into her gallery’s stable of pedigreed artists.
Closely related to Shortridge’s piano paintings are works that feature symphony conductors and and orchestras. But they are somber compositions compared to the piano interiors and Shortridge’s sun-drenched landscapes, delectable series of chefs at work in the kitchen, and his romantically magical cityscapes.
“The chef series is something new,” Shortridge proclaimed at the reception for the opening of his solo exhibition at DeBruyne Fine Art on February 24, 2011. While epicurean art may be new to Shortridge, it enjoys a rich tradition in the annals of art history. “For centuries, food has been a common theme found in works of art,” notes American Art Collector (vol. 66, April 2011). “From the food itself to the container or environment (such as a restaurant, kitchen or cafe’), the subject matter of epicurean art is seemingly endless.”
With this series, Shortridge takes his viewers into the kitchen of fine dining establishments he and wife Cathy frequent. Since he cannot very well set up an easel in the kitchen, Stephen takes along an unobtrusive digital camera to gather paint-worthy material for his next canvas or two.
”I always ask permission because I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable,” says Shortridge, who was on the other end of the lens during a 20-year career as an actor and model. “But unfortunately, that sometimes interferes with my ability to get candid shots.”
That may be, but the shots he does get have empowered him to create delectable paintings that rival the culinary art of modern-day epicureans such as Darrell Hill, Thalia Stratton, Kathy Morrison and Ashlee Comerford.
It is Shortridge’s cityscapes that really permit the artist to fully explore light, shadow, color and texture. Flurries is an example of what Shortridge loves most about impressionism. It is a depiction of a white horse and empty carriage waiting curbside for a fare in Manhattan as snow begins to gently spiral to the slickened asphalt while a blur of yellow taxis whiz by. It is bold, full of life and color, and totally uninhibited. It expresses a feel for composition and the theatrical and demonstrates why critics and collectors alike believe that Stephen Shortridge possesses the “it” factor in the world of art.
DeBruyne Fine Art is located on fabled Gallery Row in the Third Street shopping district in Olde Naples. For more information about the gallery or the exhibit, please visit www.debruynefineart.com or telephone 239-262-4551.