Artist Talk & Reception: Steve Budington

An artistic commentary on our fractured global existence

Ashley Mora


Hitting off Whittier College’s Artist Talk & Reception series, painter Steve Budington honored the Greenleaf Gallery with a series of drawings, collages, and one magnificent painting. In an exhibit titled Here from There, Budington explores the fragmented reality of modern-day navigation.

The exhibit, procured and organized primarily by Associate Professor of Art Jenny Herrick, began with the customary dozen boxes of pizza. Budington milled about, greeting students as they wandered in, and making light conversation. As Herrick presented the pies to a starting group of about a dozen students, she reminded them to sign in to receive extra credit for their classes. “Do I have to sign in if I’m not here for a class?” I asked, taking a slice of pepperoni and cheese. “No, but you definitely get points for joining us,” Budington said sharing a laugh with Herrick. 

Budington began his talk by going in-depth about his artistic journey. Budington received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and art history at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and his Master of Fine Arts in painting and printmaking from Yale School of Art, Connecticut. Alongside being an artist, Budington is a father, husband, professor, and musician in a Middlebury, Vermont-based collective, where he creates improvised electric guitar music.

Starting off with some of his earliest work from graduate school, Budington shared photographs of hyper-realistic drawings of stacks of papers and books, which were initially his main subjects. Eventually, however, he “started to feel closed in.” He explained how he slowly started to incorporate more colorful and stylistic renditions of organic subjects and detailed his fascination with the body, flesh, and various organs. This admiration shows in much of the work Budington has chosen to display, as many of his sketches feature some sort of fantastical biological subject. 

The main piece of the exhibit features several triangular canvases, which can be taken apart and arranged in any fashion. Originally, he admits, he intended the piece to have a similar composition to the American architect Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map or the Fuller Projection Map — the only flat map of Earth’s entire surface and features all of the continents connected to one another. Although the size of the continents and the oceans are distorted, Fuller intended the piece to inspire unity and encourage peace among nations. Budington explained that the overall shape of the map, which is that of an icosahedron, intrigued him, and he wanted to create something in response to it. “I’m interested in creating opportunities for improvising larger meanings from the cultural fragments and limited points of view that constitute a relationship to the world,” he said. 

It seems he has done so with his recent works, which offer snapshots into different worlds or moments, and can be shifted and rearranged as desired. The series of paintings that the display is associated with were created altogether. Boasting 17 individual canvases, each separate painting appears almost incomplete without the company of the compositions in its related series: “Partial Map with Cloud,” “Partial Map with Rain Jacket,” and “Partial Map With Weather Flag (Cold Wave).” The painting on display at the gallery, titled “Partial Map With Weather Flag,” features seven hand-crafted canvases which Budington created himself in his studio in Vermont. Each canvas contains a different image or scene usually to do with the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made world.  

Following the talk, Budington fielded questions from the three dozen or so people in attendance. He detailed his creative process, shared how he gets through his hardest days, and philosophized over the importance of the arts and humanities in today’s tumultuous world.