When Longmont painter Rick Stoner starts snapping photos in an alley, some people get suspicious. They wonder if he's an FBI agent, or a surveyor for the city setting them up for a property-tax hike. They wonder if he's a plain old snoop. But nothing could be further from the truth: A professional artist who sells his bread-and-butter work at the Merrill-Johnson Gallery in Denver, Stoner took some time out from that rat race, courtesy of a Scientific & Cultural Facilities District grant, to paint Longmont's backside. The resulting show, Backyards & Alleyways -- Hidden Visions, opens Saturday at the Old Firehouse Art Center.
"Longmont has a real old-town flavor, and the backyards often tell more about the people living there than the front part of the house," Stoner -- who works both plein air and in the studio, from photographs -- says in defense of the project. "People let their hair down more in the backyard; there's more of a story there." When he sets up his easel in an alley, though, he's not necessarily working toward a sentimental, or even a narrative, end. "The paintings are not so much about the garage as they are about how the light hits the alley, creating a shadow from the garage," he explains.
Opening reception October 7, 5-7 p.m.
For the most part, when residents encounter Stoner in their alleys, they're simply fascinated. "I get both sides of the coin, but most people think it's a cool idea. They wonder, 'What would this guy be doing sitting out here painting in the alley? What does he see that I don't see?'" The upshot, he notes, often turns out to be a snap lesson in art appreciation -- the people who watch him turn around and begin viewing their own backyards from a more aesthetic point of view: "They start seeing it in an entirely different light instead of just seeing a bunch of junk."