“365 Days,” the world premiere of a collection of never-before-exhibited paintings by renowned artist Renick Stevenson, will open Saturday, Feb. 2 from 3-5 p.m. at the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts (CVCA) at 101 N. Broad St., in Globe.
Joe Renick Stevenson, Jr. came of age during the “Beat Era” of the 1950s, hanging out with famous authors and artists who wanted to challenge the status quo and use substances to enhance cosmic awareness. Seeming to be “at the right place at the right time,” he reportedly crossed paths with Jack Kerouac, was given painting tips by Clyfford Still and encouraged to move toward sobriety by Georgia O’Keeffe, while hanging out with Alan Watts and Charles Bukowski.
Growing up, Renick drank and drugged a lot. This impacted his work, relationships, military service and art. He earned money as a rodeo cowboy, taught at universities (never having gone himself), wrote plays and acted, created street fairs and — through it all — continued to pursue his painting. After watching most of his beatnik contemporaries die and then surviving his own near-death experience, he decided to get sober and clean.
It was in Michigan that he met L.J. Murphy, a professional dancer and artist. They married and Renick committed to an art project different from anything he had ever done: attempting to do a drawing for her each day for a year. These were a visual journal that included daily meditations, love notes, sketch ideas, reflections and poems. L.J. and Renick married on Dec. 31, 2000 and the paintings began the next year.
Seven months into their new marriage, L.J.’s 18-year-old son, Gabriel, survived a diving accident and had to learn how to live with quadriplegia. Renick was initially supportive, but the reality of L.J.’s responsibility of 24-hour care for her son was more than he could handle. It did not fit the image he had of what their relationship was to be. When he began to take out his frustrations on Gabe, L.J. asked him to leave. He did so, but he still loved her and wanted his gift of 365 paintings to remain with her.
After several years of healing, Dr. L.J. Murphy moved to Eastern Arizona to serve the San Carlos Apache people as a child psychologist. She remains an artist and dancer. L.J. states that art has healing power and allows a person to discover who they really are. She uses this in her psychological work with others and to address her own grief over the death of her son.
“I sat on this for over 16 years,” says L.J., “and now I feel accepted in this community. I am going back to painting and to who I am. I feel at home here.”
L.J. currently rents space from the CVCA to paint. “Part of showing Renick’s work is wishing this for him. He is a beautiful spirit, but this was not always seen because of his inner turmoil and anger.”
Globe’s CVCA premier will open on Saturday, Feb. 2 from 3-5 p.m. and show all 365 of these works for the month of February.
CVCA is located in the 100+-year-old former County Courthouse at 101 N. Broad St., in the historic downtown region of Globe. It is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12-4 p.m.
For a more detailed version of this report, see this week’s Arizona Silver Belt.