From across the brightly lit room, an object of deep familiarity snags my eye. It’s as though I am a trout having an atavistic response to something in the water ahead. A connection to childhood synapse, I can almost hear the sound of canned audience applause, a beautiful yet overdone hostess turns a card as a Pat lets out a familiar, “Do we have an ‘S’ ?” and so I am introduced to the work of Gordon Stevenson, aka Baron Von Fancy. A throwback Wheel of Fortune photo evokes a sense of Americana, the phrase peeled back by Vanna revealing more about Stevenson’s work as you dive in and begin to get it. This installation spans mediums but the impression that is left behind is a tie to the past, making things old new again and slathering it with a cheeky sense of fun, romance and occasionally, irony.
Baron Von Fancy represents the side of Stevenson which commercializes his art, and the success of this work has landed him collaborations with Juicy Couture, Urban Outfitters and most recently Sun Valley based Smith Optics. His work has been on display at the European mecca, Collette, a shop in Paris and renowned hub for all things fashionable, and well, Fancy. In a word, legit validation.
A Sun Valley youth seasonally for the past 28 years of his life, Stevenson’s “This Must Be the Place” is both an opportunity to return to the place he loves as well as a spotlight on Sun Valley’s burgeoning art scene. When you enter Ochi Gallery you are met by the hand painted sign (one of Stevenson’s trademark mediums), “There’s Nothing Like It” and so goes the latest installation that imparts an immediate sense of playful cleverness. Hosting Stevenson’s work represents the latest effort in a series of exhibitions over the past couple years that Pauli Ochi, the boomerang artist daughter of the gallery’s founders, has brought to the valley. Returning to her roots from New York and LA, Ochi has been giving the stage to the younger artists in the valley and from around the country. The result has been a visible bubbling to the top of talent and enthusiasm from the community’s younger side, the critical components to the rise of a new population of artists and fans which is occurring in Sun Valley today.
Learning that Stevenson was a long time Sun Valley visitor it seemed like a good idea to throw a few questions his way and see what a young artist from New York City had to say about life in the mountains. We sent over a short email interview which he was immediately agreeable to and fired back the following: So let’s just start with the obvious. How did you end up with “Baron von Fancy” as your stage name?
Baron Von Fancy as a moniker somehow just landed upon me. I collect vintage Versace jeans and believe it started with being called Fancy Pants because of this collection and then at some point morphed into Baron Von Fancy. How exactly I am unsure, but I know that in college when I began making objects that were going to be sold commercially rather than in galleries, I really began to use it full force.
You’re knocking on the door of honorary local status, what is your connection to Sun Valley?
Family to start and now the Ochi Gallery. I have been coming to Sun Valley since I was a boy. Growing up I went on many family vacations there. My father now spends half the year there and I come out at least a few times a year for art or family reasons. I have had a show at Ochi or been involved with one almost every year since I graduated college in 2006. (his 2007 show “Poured in Ketchum” features works created in the valley- ed)
Are you a skier or snowboarder? Or more of a summer guy?
I am a snowboarder, but hiking is closest to my heart. I love hiking in the summer the most of all Sun Valley activities. Snowboarding and hiking are something I don’t get to do much in NYC. I was born and raised in New York City so coming out to Sun Valley is amazing for me. I feel like the focus of Sun Valley is outdoor recreation, winter or summer, and I really appreciate that. Everyone is always doing a physical activity or outdoors doing everything from playing ice hockey to fishing and I really enjoy that focus on being active.
Has your time here influenced your work or your art overall?
My first show at the Ochi Gallery was in 2007 and called “Poured in Ketchum” where all the work I made for the show I made locally. I love being in Sun Valley. The pace of the place and the extreme beauty make it hard to be unhappy and painting or creating in a beautiful place while being very happy is usually a good recipe for success for me. Also, as a slight aside snowboarding graphics in the early 90s definitely had an profound effect on my love an interest in extremely bright colors.
Describe the Sun Valley arts and culture scene. Have you been surprised by what is here in that realm considering we are more or less in the middle of the nowhere? Every time I am there something is going on. I came for my opening on July 5th and was amazed at the turnout for the gallery walk that night and that simultaneously there was a huge electronic music festival going on (MASSV -ed). On may way out of town I saw that the Allen & Company conference was happening. Sun Valley may be small and hard to find, but is definitely on the map culturally. On a side note, I always thought it was cool the Dalai Lama visited a school in Hailey for a 9/11 remembrance ceremony. How would you describe Sun Valley in short to someone from New York City? Intentionally hard to get to, but so worth it once you get there. An outdoor wonderland no matter what time of year. Do you have any insider Baron von Fancy tips or secrets for others who might coming to hang in Sun Valley? I have had some experiences getting to and from Sun Valley from New York, but not one that would ever stop me from coming back. One day on a Skywest connection someone told me that Sun Valley was founded with the intention of being hard to get to. If it were easier to get to it would be overrun with people and lose it’s small town charm. Part of what makes it so special for me is arriving there and knowing how far away I am from my every day life. So I guess my tip is that it can be a long trip to Sun Valley, but that Sun Valley is so magical it is worth it. It is part of its magic and part of the adventure of spending time there.
Photos: Max Monahan and Ochi Gallery