Harold Stevenson

Excerpt from the Lower East Side Biography Project

Steve Zehentner: Producer, Director of Photography

Harold Stevenson was born in 1929 in Idabel, Oklahoma. Over the past six decades, the male figure—often nude and always sumptuously rendered—has dominated the oeuvre of the self-taught painter. Stevenson moved to New York to pursue art in 1949 and almost immediately befriended Andy Warhol. Stevenson would later become the subject of Warhol’s first film entitled Harold and would also appear in the pop artist’s video Heat (1972).

In 1959, Stevenson relocated to Europe, where he resided in France and Italy and exhibited regularly in galleries for nearly twenty years. While Stevenson had developed his classical homoerotic figuration prior to his move to Europe, the artist’s most iconic works were products of the 1960s. Stevenson’s large-scale painting of the close-up of a human eye entitled Eye of Lightning Billy (1962) was included in the pivotal exhibition The New Realists (1962), which also featured artists like Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Robert Indiana, and many others.

The following year, the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris exhibited The New Adam (1962), an 8-foot by 39-foot reclining nude man, a wall of flesh modeled by actor Sal Mineo and dedicated to Stevenson’s lover, Lord Timothy Willoughby. Also in 1963, the artist’s painting The Call (1963) was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Annual. The following year, Stevenson exhibited a 48-foot-high painting of the matador El Cordobas at the Eiffel Tower. The artist then incorporated his own hometown history into his painting when he created one hundred portraits of residents of Idabel for The Great Society (1967–68).

With resolve, Stevenson adhered to his realist style and figural subject matter over the next forty years, even as representational painting phased in and out of acceptance. In the 1980s, while living in Key West, Stephenson incorporated references to Greco-Roman and Egyptian archetypes into his works. In the last decade, Stevenson has focused on sensuous paintings of the young model Christopher John. The artist lives and works in Idabel. – See the following link for a wonderful summary of Harold’s life and work by Tawsha Brinkley Davenport

The Harold Stevenson Biography is a part of The Lower East Side Biography Project and was directed and edited by Amy P. Ferrara in collaboration with Penny Arcade and Steve Zehentner.
Director, Editor: Amy P. Ferrara
Producer, Director of Photography: Steve Zehentner
Producer/Interviewer: Penny Arcade
Associate Producers: Dean Lance, Rick Jungers
Lights & Sound: Steve Zehentner

The Lower East Side Biography Project was created in 1999 by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner as an ongoing biography series and oral history archive. The LES Bio Project’s biographies and archive work to ensure that future generations have access to the mad souls of invention and rebellion that built the Lower East Side’s international reputation as an incubator for authenticity and iconoclasm in art, culture and politics.

The project seeks to stem the tide of cultural amnesia by bridging the cultural gap between long time residents and newcomers to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. To this end, the LES Bio Project has a community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies and then become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography. Since its inception, the LES Bio Project has trained over forty individuals, completed over sixty 28-minute programs, and videotaped dozens more interviews and live events.

The completed biographies cablecast and stream live every Monday at 11 p.m EST, in Manhattan on Time Warner 34, RCN 82, FIOS 33, and live stream on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Community Channel One.

View the current cablecast and livestream schedule on the project's Facebook page.