Me & My Art Monday: Meet Stephen Borko
Posted on April 21, 2014 by Patrice Drago
This week's featured artist: Stephen Borko, Board of Directors, member since 2003
ME: I am a native Washingtonian (a breed not as rare as is commonly believed) and currently live in Bethesda. I have had a career in managing a variety of nonprofit organizations in Washington, from think tanks to arts organizations. My passions include travel, inventive food, and many kinds of music, enjoyed with good friends. In addition since 1971 my wife and I have collected art and fine handcrafts.
MY ART: My photographic vision has developed over four decades as a collector and enthusiast of the visual arts and initially as a casual photographer. I try to capture the essence of places visited and reflect my view of landscapes on and off the beaten path, people who reside in these places, and man-made additions to these landscapes. I was particularly influenced by the work of photographer Joel Myerowitz. A reviewer once characterized my photographs as "lonesome landscapes." After years of concentrating on color landscapes, I have recently developed a renewed interest in black and white images and an increasing interest in photographing people.
MFA & ME: I became aware of MFA in late 2003 and, to my surprise and pleasure, two of my photographs were accepted in the 2004 Small Wonders show enabling me to see my own work on a gallery wall for the first time. Shortly thereafter, at a time when MFA was in transition as it was approaching its fifth decade, I became a member of the board. My hope was to bring my experience in nonprofit management to identify best management practices, to help expand and diversify board membership, and to help get MFA on a stronger financial footing. I have had the honor to work with committed and talented volunteers who serve on the board, staff, and committees as well as many MFA artists, all of whom have worked together to create a renewed and stabilized MFA. It has been my privilege to work closely with Joe Dickey, Sharon Arsenault, Joann Vaughn, among others, who shepherded MFA through difficult times and have made MFA a major force in the arts in Annapolis and beyond. I have a show of mostly new photographs in the Holley Gallery from April 23-May 10.
Stephen Borko: Photographs "Visions of Nature"
By Amanda Lineweber
Collecting other artist's work, which "tapped into [his] visual sense and helped refine [his] photographic eye," was the catalyst for Stephen Borko's own artistic career. Since 1971 he and his wife have actively collected art of all mediums, from prints and paintings to ceramics and sculpture. As their collection grew Borko became inspired to create artwork of his own; he was particularly affected by the work of Joel Myerowitz. As Borko began to spend more time on his photographic hobby, his friend and mentor, professional photographer Amy Lamb, encouraged him to submit his work to juried exhibits and competitions. As Borko's career has steadily grown, it's clear that Lamb's advice was sound.
Over the past eight years Borko has exhibited in more than 25 art shows at galleries and art organizations throughout the DC area, including the Maryland Federation of the Arts, the McLean Project for the Arts, with Washington Project for the Arts at the (e)merge Art Fair, and Touchstone Gallery. Borko's photograph, Approaching Sandstorm, featuring a horse and rider atop a cliff in Monument Valley, located between Arizona and Utah, was voted by the public as best encapsulation of the theme, "What America Means to Me". The accomplishment prompted an interview on ABC's This Morning by George Stephanopoulous.
Currently, Borko is exhibiting sixteen of his photographs at Gallery B in Bethesda, available, framed or unframed, at affordable prices. Borko is drawn to places with "exceptional or unique" landscapes and light, and most of his work is based on his travels in Umbria, Tuscany, France, Alaska, and in the American Southwest. For those who dream of spending their vacation weeks in these locations but can't manage to escape the Beltway, Borko's photographs will provide a mental getaway any time you like.
The best of Borko's travel photography include his series of photographs exploring one location at several hours. Seeing Mittens at Dusk, Mittens at Dawn, and Mittens in Sandstorm together lets the viewer imagine that they hike past these massive red stone landforms (resembling short, mittened hands sticking up out of the ground) every day and know them at all hours and in all seasons. If the southwest isn't your daydreaming go-to then another series from Tuscany might be more to your taste: Stand of Trees Spring and Stand of Trees Fall creates the same feeling of deep knowledge of a landscape. The iconic view of European landscape comes straight out of a jetsetter's fantasy. The emptiness and beautiful plainness of Borko's landscapes lend them intimacy, suggesting the solitary travel One of the nicest photographs in the exhibit is Sunbeam, an arresting image of a strong ray of light illuminating the ethereal caves of Antelope Canyon. These particularly beautiful caves are on Navajo land and accessible only in the presence of native guides. The striking beauty of the canyon are also captured in Antelope Canyon Trail #1 and Antelope Canyon Trail #2.
Borko's talent shines the brightest when he works in portraiture. Although this category is the smallest of his oevre, they represent some of his best work. None are on exhibit at Gallery B, but can be seen on his website, or by appointment. Borko's image of four men in a Tuscan plaza, Pienza Gentlemen, seizes remarkably on the personality exuded by each individual. The intimacy of Borko's landscape shots is even stronger in his portraiture and still life shots of dollhouses and storefronts; it would be wonderful to see him embrace these subjects with more equity to the broad landscape subjects.
Borko's photographs are waiting at Gallery B, close to Bethesda's metro stop, to help your mind escape the DMV and travel instead to Tuscany, Arizona, or Alaska. A print hanging in your office will be a constant spur to finally take that vacation, or at least make a perfect daily getaway.
"Visions of Nature" is on display at Gallery B in Bethesda through July 31. Borko's work can be viewed at www.stephenborkophotographs.com.