Stephen May was born in Témiscaming, Quebec in 1957. In 1976, after one year of study in the Photographic Arts Program at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, Stephen began to attend art classes at the Ottawa School of Art. Three years later he enrolled in the Fine Arts program at Mount Allison University, from which he graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. During his fourth year of study, while in the process of creating a landscape painting, he came to understand the relationship between the success of a painting and the spirit of the painter. Stephen realized that drawing and painting were the media most natural to him. His convictions in that respect remain strong to this day.
Following his formal education, Stephen travelled through Europe for eight months exploring collections of great art to deepen his appreciation and knowledge. On his return from Europe, he accepted a seasonal position with Theatre New Brunswick as a prop builder, allowing him five months per year to pursue painting full time. After being awarded a Canada Council “B” grant in 1992, Stephen was able to take a one-year sabbatical from Theatre New Brunswick which provided a stepping stone to his decision to resign and paint full time, which he has been successfully doing since 1996.
Stephen has been a resident of Fredericton since 1984. In that time, he has exhibited extensively, been an active member of the arts community both professionally and as a volunteer, blessed with two daughters, and formally recognized as one of the province's most respected painters. Gallery 78 has represented Stephen since he assumed residency in Fredericton, and has presented many solo and group exhibitions of his work. In 2006 the Beaverbrook Art Gallery presented Stephen May: Embodiments, a solo retrospective, and in April 2007 Stephen was awarded the prestigious Miller Brittain Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts.
I really just try and make good paintings and drawings, beautiful ones. What that means, exactly, I’m not sure. When it happens, though, it tends to be obvious. The 18th century French painter, Chardin, said you use colours, but you paint with feeling. I understand what he means.
- Stephen May
About His Work
"I love his work. He's one of the best painters around. He handles grey better than any other painter I know." -Mary Pratt, artist, Arts Atlantic #62, 1998
"Just as dipping a biscuit in a cup of tea opened up worlds of remembrances for Proust's protagonist, so too might May's painted objects open up worlds for the viewer." -Ray Cronin, author, curator, former Director & CEO Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Arts Atlantic #62, 1998
"It is a profoundly spiritual and philosophical art and one to be greatly valued in an age of consistent destruction and materialism." -George Fry, artist, former Director of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, unpublished letter, 2004
"May's portraits, especially his many self portraits, whether drawings or paintings, are direct in handling, deeply perceptive and amazingly honest. They would stand with fine portraitures anywhere." -Roslyn Rosenfeld, writer, curator, unpublished letter, 2004
"I have long been a great admirer of Stephen May's work. I consider him an excellent draughtsman and painter of great taste and quality." -Molly Lamb Bobak, artist, unpublished letter, 2004
"Any examination of Stephen May's work reveals his instinctive feel for the medium. Whether working from the figure or the still life, there is an unmistakable authority to his approach." -Tom Lovatt, artist, curator, Site/Specific/Sight, Marion McCain Atlantic Art Exhibition, 2007
"In my experience, there are very few painters who are able to combine talent and wisdom, gesture and image, visual poetry and choice of subject in so compelling a manner as Stephen." -Tom Smart, author, art historian, curator, CEO of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, unpublished letter, 2009
On Stephen May
"The banal corners of everyday life can be beautiful too, if they are seen in that way. Stephen May finds the beauty in the corners of everyday life, revels in it, and spreads it out in paint for us to consider and enjoy. Some of his subjects are inherently attractive but a look at the kitchen sink - with all its associations of boring chores - decodes the essence of beauty which lies much deeper. Stephen burrows into his subjects and finds at the core marvellous redemption. This is the miracle of being able to find beauty." -Leopold Kolowik, 2010
Established in 1976, Gallery 78 represents artworks of established and emerging Atlantic Canadian artists.
We are pleased to provide a range of fine art services including art consultation, framing, in-home trials, delivery, installation, shipping, and payment plans.
796 Queen Street, Fredericton, NB
(506) 454-5192, 1-888-883-8322 (Canada)
Tuesday - Friday 10 - 5, Saturday 10 - 3, and by appointment.