Brad Stumpf - Focus, oil on panel, 24” x 18”, 2023

The Weather Station is pleased to present Still Life, an exhibition by Brad Stumpf, opening March 8th and on view through April 20th. Still Life brings together a selection of Stumpf's recent oil paintings, each based on a diorama the artist constructs in his studio.  

First and foremost, the exhibition title Still Life is an allusion to the artist's working process. The still life format has historically afforded painters a freedom in composition, allowing artists to compose images to their individual tastes and with materials readily available - creating a visual of "slice of life." Although considered one of painting's most traditional genres, within Stumpf's practice the still life expands to include a narrative, diaristic impulse. Working with a collection of tiny furniture, found objects, photographs, drawings and handmade constructions, the artist creates small dioramas in his studio reflecting the circumstances of his day-to-day. Work, marriage, dreams and relationships are all dramatized in the tableaus the artist constructs and lights like miniature stage sets. Once completed, he paints each still life in a single session, working swiftly with a technique equal parts careful and unfussy. "There is no other goal than to capture a mood," he says of his one-day method, "and since moods can change, they need to feel urgent. An idea can become stale if you don't use it quickly."

Brad Stumpf - Navigating Loss, oil on panel, 18”x24”, 2023

The works in this exhibition were made within the past year, following the unexpected diagnosis and loss of the artist's mother to cancer. During this period, Stumpf's still life dioramas began to depict the complex and contradictory emotions of loss. Envelopedpositions a tiny figure on a tightrope above a dinner table - a moment when the artist found himself reluctant to engage familial obligations. Navigating Loss employs the perspective of a downcast gaze, a gesture to the shock and vulnerability of first learning his mother's diagnosis. Alongside his own bare feet, a reproduction of Edvard Munch's The Girl By The Window appears at a slight angle, linking the artist's personal sadness to that of the Norwegian master. In these moving paintings, Still Life takes on a new meaning - that of a life made still. Through it all, Stumpf's language remains focused, urgently recording the internal events of his days.

Brad Stumpf - Past, Present, Future in Mom’s Plant, oil on panel, 24”x16”, 2024

But the most poignant paintings are those the artist uses to imagine brighter futures, or make space for grief to coexist alongside hope. This Sacred Place centers a figure with downcast eyes focused not on his own feet, but on a tiny butterfly cradled in his own hand. The aptly named Past, Present and Future in Mom's Plant positions tiny drawings of all three co-existing among the branches of a houseplant cared for by the artist's late mother. You Make Life More Interesting, the largest painting in the show, is a tender double-portrait of the artist and his wife in each other's arms and asleep side-by-side - a testament to the relationships that allow for navigation during loss. It is in these paintings that Still Life takes on a third meaning: after loss, there is still life. Stumpf's deft handling and perseverance offer a look into an artist fully inhabiting a language of his own design, expanding upon it to speak more broadly about the realities and contradictions of a life. "I always considered myself a 'happy' painter," Stumpf says of this recent work. "Now, I think of myself as a painter."

Brad Stumpf - You Make Life More Interesting, oil on panel, 48”x32”, 2023

Brad Stumpf - Picnic in My Desk Drawer, oil on panel, 18”x24”, 2023

Brad Stumpf - Enveloped, oil on panel, 24”x18”, 2023

Brad Stumpf - Nighttime Construction Site, oil on panel, 24” x 24”, 2023

Brad Stumpf - This Sacred Place, oil on panel, 24” x 18”, 2024  

Brad Stumpf is an interdisciplinary artist living in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in rural Illinois, outside of the village of Hamel, in Madison County. Stumpf attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2015. His paintings function like miniature stage-sets and are acknowledgements of real and imaginary moments in his life that make him want to hold his breath. His works attempt to capture the purity and stillness of an idle moment spent alongside his wife, or more recently the mental gymnastics required to navigate the loss of his mother. His paintings have been featured by BOOOOOOOM!, Dovetail Mag, ARTMAZE MAG, Create! among other publications. He recently had a solo exhibition at Harkawik Gallery, and concurrent with Still Life at The Weather Station, his works will appear in a two-person exhibition (alongside his wife Jeffly Gabriela Molina) at Artruss Gallery in Chicago.