Dutton makes return to art scene

Editor's note: The printed version of this story lists an incorrect date. The art show will take place on Thursday, Jan. 14. O&AN regrets the error.

After being lost in "Habitville" for nearly three years, Stevn Dutton is returning to the art scene in a big way.

His newest show is set to open at Tribe (1517 Church St.) on Thursday, Jan. 14 and Dutton plans to transform the bar into a living, interactive art show. From 6 - 10 p.m. the look and energy of the bar will be altered by a variety of artistic mediums, lights and music for "A Journey into Habitville" - the story of finding one's way out of harmful routines and back into real life.

"People have been wondering where I've been," Dutton said. "We all go through dark moments but that doesn't mean we can't get back on track. This is my comeback."

The idea of Habitville struck Dutton during an drawing class two years ago at Watkins College. "Habitville is a subconscious place in our mind's where our habits live," Dutton said. "It's a place we get stuck - get lost - and do things out of routine whether or not they make us happy."

But, at the time of the epiphany, Dutton himself was living in Habitville and brushed it aside. It was only after suffering a broken heart and losing his bartending job at Tribe in June '09 that Dutton confronted his demons and decided to leave Habitville for good.

"I had been irresponsible and I realized that I had really lost my way," Dutton said. "Being in the bar for me was Habitville at that time. I was doing things that I knew were making me unhappy and it led me to leaving bartending. That's when I realized the importance of starting the journey of finding my way out of Habitville and living my life the way I wanted to."

For the artist, the path to reconciliation was through art and led him to the creation of the upcoming show which will lead viewers through Dutton's mind with more than 50 art pieces. The show begins with pencil drawings, photographs and poetry each offering snapshots of realization. Dutton said the mood is dark and tumultuous at first with fragmented discoveries pieced together like a collage as viewers slowly begin to enter Habitville.

Viewers continue through the subconscious mind alongside "Habby," a living art piece representing the aimless, meandering soul lost in Habitville. Deeper inside, art pieces become more tangible and interactive with watercolor pieces, 3-D effects and acrylic sculptures that can be touched and explored as Habby and viewers come to understand this strange place.

"It's like you slowly get a glimpse of what Habitville is and then all the sudden you're in it," Dutton said. "Then what do you do? I want people to wander around and discover where they are on the magical journey."

Toward the end of the show will be a variety of pieces which represent courage, strength and change - but not closure, Dutton said.

"What people get from the show when they exit Habitville will be up to the individual," he said. "You can leave the show and be out of Habitville but still be lost in your own subconscious. We should all be conscious that we can easily get lost in this place if you're not aware. It's something we have to consider each and every day."

It's a lesson that took Dutton several years to learn. He developed a love for art at age three and discovered his talent for painting at 16, he said. Since then he has created hundreds of pieces and commissioned works, though his passion for art dwindled a couple years ago, he said.

"I was trying to hold on to something I once had," Dutton said. "After a while, that stimulus faded away and I was left with the routine - the path, but no direction. But now that passion is back and I'm more excited now because I've matured as an artist and can actually teach people something with my own story."

Having come full-circle, Dutton is again tending bar at Tribe and decided to host the art show there in homage to the struggles that have shaped him in recent months. He said his past experiences help him avoid getting lost in Habitville again but the process is, and will always be, ongoing.

"In order not to go back to Habitville, I have to keep reminding myself of what my life is all about - not just a bartender who goes out and has fun and takes nothing seriously. Not 'work, play, work, play,'" he said. "A lot of people in the scene get wrapped up in that, but my outlook has changed and I'm taking more from my work and life than I used to. I'm taking the experiences and I hope that this show will help others do the same."

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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