Scientist, artist, philanthropist: A retrospective exhibit

By Lee Schoenbart


From NASA to India and back to Del Mar, science, art and humanity come together in a retrospective exhibition of life’s work — to this point in time — of Payson Stevens.

A fine artist who works in a series of atypical mediums, Stevens embraced what was known as the “new media art” of computer generation and animation and CDs. His vocation implored him to utilize his science mind while his avocation explored the artistic side.

Added to the mix was his humanity and humaneness for the people of Himachal Pradesh, a state in northwest India surrounded by the Himalayas and bordered by Kashmir (north), Punjab (west) and China’s Tibet region (east). Stevens became involved with My Himachal, a U.S. nonprofit and Indian nongovernmental organization dedicated to enriching the state’s education, health care and employment as well as preserving its culture.

“It will really be looking at the scope of all of my work,” Stevens said about EnergyLandscapes, his exhibition at Southwestern College that runs through Feb. 24.

“The main gallery will have my paintings and drawings going back 35-plus years, tracing the various periods in development of my work,” he said. "... the smaller gallery will be focused on the work I did in science communication on the Earth and global change and global warming issues for 25 years through my two companies, which are InterNetwork and InterNetwork Media, working with science agencies NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA.”

Stevens said that all net proceeds from the sale of his work during the exhibition will be donated to My Himachal.

“There’s a serious need for child healthcare, nutrition and education, as well as the conservation and protection of the environment of Himachal Pradesh,” Stevens said. “It’s a beautiful forested part of India with a lot of water and a lot of issues associated with protecting the environment.”

Since the group’s formation in 2006, Stevens said, My Himachal has immunized 2,500 children against basic childhood illnesses including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and typhoid.

“We’re also dealing with issues of childhood malnutrition and training village women to become nutritional health workers going into the surrounding villages to be a resource to help educate and raise awareness about childhood nutrition and what the mothers need to do,” he said.

In the far recesses of Himachal Pradesh, and perhaps wherever he traveled and worked in India, Stevens frequently depended on his creativity and local natural resources for art supplies. Among the more unusual mediums Stevens utilized oil on khadi paper, oil on clay-coated paper and original materials for his totem sculptures such as bone, feathers and porcupine quills.

Eight thousand miles from India, Stevens and his art are forever linked by his love for the people and nature of that northwest state.

“I sell my work in India and I feel it’s a gift to be able to create and I want to return that gift in whatever way I can, improving people’s lives, who, in many ways, have a much harder material existence than we do here in the United States,” Stevens said.

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