From the book "Semina Culture, Wallace Berman and His Circle" (2005)

by Wallace Berman, Michael Duncan , Kristine McKenna

book copyright:  2005


Dean Stockwell was born in Hollywood in 1936, and established himself as an actor as a child. In 1955, he met Wallace Berman and began a second career as an artist. Berman introduced the young actor to an anti-materialistic community of visual artists that
Stockwell immediately responded to, and he became an important early supporter and collector of works by Bruce Conner, George Herms, Jess, and Wallace Berman, among others.

Berman also familiarized Stockwell with collage experimental film, and photography, and led him to the artmaking practice that has been apart of his life ever since. During the early years of their friendship, Stockwell developed a visual art vocabulary combining metaphysical symbols with surreal juxtapositions, which he continues to mine today. Working primarily in collage, Stockwell produced a large body of work in the 1950s that is, at turns, romantic, apocalyptic, and droll. Images of celestial bodies, Greek statuary, gothic architecture, advertising, and photography clipped from old Life magazines richochet across the picture plane in collages that initially appear to be random, but on closer examination resonate with a strange portentousness. Working in this mode, Stockwell created the cover for Semina 8, and designed the cover for his friend Neil Young's album of 1977, American Stars 'n Bars.

From the mid-1950s until Berman's death in 1976, Stockwell worked in periodic bursts of activity, and among his output was a series of experimental films, one of which was an intimate portrait of George Herms at work in his studio. Unfortunately, most of Stockwell's films were either destroyed or lost. For most of the 1980s and 1990s Stockwell produced relatively little visual art, but that changed in 2002 when he began creating collages using found images, his own photographs, and computer technologies. In 2003 he commenced work on a series of collages titled The Spagyric Eye (spagyric refers to a form of plant alchemy), and in 2004 he exhibited the completed cycle of forty works at the RB Ravens Gallery in Taos.

These recent works are very much in keeping with Stockwell's Surrealist-inspired art of the 1950s. The Spagyric Eye revolves around variations on two central images - an abandoned house and a human eye. Interwoven into each of them are images of feathers, jewels, dolls, thorns, snakes, astronauts, eggs, leopards, statuary of Hindu gods and figures from Greek mythology. Stockwell continues to work on computer-generated collages at his home in Taos, New Mexico. Stockwell is also a gifted poet who has maintained an intermittent writing practice over the years. Many of his poems were inscribed onto postcards and sent to friends.


The End