Phil Stanton ’85
By Jay Werba ’86
When Phil Stanton arrived in Barcelona, Spain in 1988, a fresh MFA from New York’s School of Visual Arts in hand, he found a city teeming with life. After almost 40 years of severe repression and censorship under the authoritarian rule of Francisco Franco, Spain was rediscovering its creative roots, and Barcelona—home of such noted artists as Gaudi, Picasso, Miró, and Tàpies—was experiencing a huge burst of creative energy that Stanton found appealing. “There were lots of things happening, a lot of good people, and I just felt like there might be a place for me there,” he said.
Establishing himself as an artist in Spain was no easy task, however. In addition to dealing with the challenges of a language barrier (he didn’t speak Spanish), Stanton was operating on a shoestring budget. “Those early days were difficult,” he said. “I would visit galleries and agencies with my portfolio and would get by through lots of gesticulating and by speaking pidgin Spanish.” But his talent didn’t need translation. “Fortunately, I had a solid portfolio that was quite different from anything most people in Barcelona had seen before, so that helped me to get my foot in many doors.”
The radical change in environment moved Stanton’s artistic style in a new direction. “Barcelona during those first couple of years was a very colorful, luminous place,” he said. “This had a major impact on my art. When I was working in New York, my art was darker, both visually and conceptually. Barcelona changed the focus of my work. I didn’t want to create art that was so depressing anymore.”
One of Stanton’s first pieces in Barcelona was a painting of a table with a croissant and an Italian coffee press which captured the mood of the Mediterranean lifestyle—an image that might have seemed rather ordinary to the locals, but to Stanton was striking. “Things like the beauty of a table with sunlight spilling across it—people there took that stuff for granted,” he said. “I was so stunned by the light of Barcelona that the ordinary looked extraordinary to me.”
Now, two decades later, Stanton speaks fluent Spanish and has made a name for himself in this urban arts mecca as a fine artist, illustrator, and graphic designer. “I’d get bored if I always had to do one thing, so I find it really rewarding to switch between these three areas,” he said. Self-described as “artistically schizophrenic,” Stanton likes to draw from many different schools of art. His paintings are very Mediterranean in chromatic scheme and currently he is exploring “pop cubism.” “Mixing pop art and cubism is quite intentional because I like to play with various styles to find out what’s in there for me,” he said. “Quite often, delving into different schools of art will lead to the creation of something that is entirely new.”
The multi-faceted artist also has published a series of children’s books which he both wrote and illustrated. With titles such as I’m Not Sleepy, I’m Not Going to School Today, and I Don’t Want a Little Brother, the Misha the Cat series deals with typical problems facing children.
The magna cum laude studio art major credits Rollins with giving him the push he needed in order to successfully pursue his career. “I was lucky enough to get into a nurturing environment,” said Stanton, “with top professors like Bob Lemon, Tom Peterson, and Ron Larned. It was a very important point in my life because it made me start taking art seriously instead of struggling along, trying to figure out what to do with my life.”
Stanton’s success in Barcelona has reached new heights through his latest creations: large-scale urban installations of his colorful paintings, primarily on buildings that are completely wrapped in canvas. Stanton is leaving his mark—quite literally—on the city that has had such an impact on his artistic career.
To learn more about Phil Stanton and his work, go to stantonstudio.com and philipstanton.com/mishaweb.