Portrait of the Past

By Randy Noles
Stephen Bach and his portrait of the vintage home that the community rallied to save.
Stephen Bach and his portrait of the vintage home that the community rallied to save.

Stephen Bach is one of the region’s most acclaimed painters. His award-winning works — moody explorations of color and light — hang in numerous private collections and have been featured in national publications.

But your first exposure to Bach might have come over a plate of pasta and breadsticks at Olive Garden. Trained at the Pratt Institute in New York City, the Orlando native spent 15 years painting murals in roughly 500 of the ubiquitous Italian eateries, traveling to 47 states in the process.

Fifteen years ago, Bach decided to pursue his goal of becoming a fine-art landscape painter. Today he works from Winter Park’s McRae Art Studios and travels to high-profile festivals around the country. He has also emerged as the region’s go-to source for special-event posters.

His painting, Veteran’s Fountain by Night, was selected as the official poster for the 2013 Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. And, for 10 of the past 14 years, he has been the poster artist for the Winter Park Concours d’Elegance, an annual collector-car show held this year at the Winter Park Country Club.

In addition to classic cars and rural landscapes, Bach is fascinated by homes and commercial buildings — especially those in Winter Park. His skill at capturing the personality of a structure is one reason he was asked to render the Capen-Showalter House for the cover of Winter Park Magazine.

The house, as every Winter Parker surely knows, was rescued from demolition, sawed in half and floated across Lake Osceola, where it was placed next to the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens and renovated for use as museum offices and community event space. Work was completed in October.

Debbie Komanski, executive director of the Polasek, personally asked Bach to do the painting as a commemoration of the project’s successful completion.

“Stephen seemed to be the perfect choice,” says Komanski of the artist, who’s a regular participant in the annual Polasek-sponsored Winter Park Paint Out, an invitation-only plein air event during which 25 artists explore the city and capture what they see on canvas.

“He appreciates the beauty of Winter Park and the significance of this effort,” she adds. “And I knew his finished work would do it all justice.”

Says Bach: “It was an honor to be asked to paint a portrait of the Capen-Showalter House. Over the past 15 years, I’ve gotten to know Debbie and the staff and board of the Polasek. So I wasn’t surprised when I heard they wanted to move the house across the lake. After all, that’s what a museum does — preserve treasures.”

Bach notes that the house “has existed for nearly as long as the town, and now it will host generations to come. The beauty of the art it will hold, the laughter and celebration that will fill its rooms — all this should be seen as confirmation of the good that comes from repurposing the past.”

For more information about Bach’s work, visit stephenbach.com or mcraeartstudios.com.

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