For the first time since 1988, after an unfulfilling connection to his work and surprising request from Jesus Christ, professional fine artist Victor Atkins is painting again.
After immediately starting his career at The School of Visual Arts in New York, the then-20-year-old Atkins became drawn to abstract painting.
“It just bit me,” he said. “It was not a calling. It was desperation.”
But by the late-1980s, Atkins grew increasingly disconnected by the superficialities of the abstract expressionism market and soon sold his studio and moved to West Chester to take up different interests – racing bicycles and writing screenplays and films.
It wasn’t until locals from a church community began to encourage and eventually commission Atkins’ work. And soon, an unusual voice began speaking to him one morning at 4 a.m. to paint portraits, a concentration of painting Atkins never did, let alone held an interest for. But he painted seven of them, including one of his wife.
“This is Jesus talking to me and it was flipping me out because, well, it’s Jesus talking to me,” he said. “And I didn’t have the courage to say no.”
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Since his 20-year hiatus from the art scene, Atkins has moved to Kensington, rented a studio and created an abstract, primitive and childlike collection of 15 paintings to challenge viewers to explore deeper truths of emotion and spirituality.
“This new work is like the rebirth of his craft,” said Sara Gatti, a 22-year-old aspiring art critic.
Atkins’ new collection, Come and Play, is currently exhibited at White Stone Gallery on Frankford Avenue and East Berks Street.
“Victor’s work chose us,” said Kristen Moore, an artist, teacher and assistant at White Stone Gallery. “There’s something very vulnerable about and very playful about it at the same time.”
And with the possibility of three more shows coming up in the fall, Atkins is continuing to work with no intention to stop soon – this time with the same iconic language, bold splashes of color and a stretch to involve more storytelling and landscapes with playful and sketchy characteristics, contrary to the spontaneous paintings he has recently done.
Atkins said he hopes to encourage people to take risks and strive to do something unique within their own heart and imagination, to birth and bring to life.
“One of the greatest things that happened for me is freedom – freedom as an artist, freedom as a person and just kind of a joyful life,” he said. “This is my worship.”
Text, images and video by Shauna Bannan