Chris Stoffel Overvoorde

Professor Emeritus

1934 -

Art is a response connecting insight, emphasis, or viewpoint to a sense of place or belonging. (Twenty-Five Years as an American Artist, Chris Stoffel, Grand Rapids, MI.: Calvin College, 1986.)

Chris Stoffel Overvoorde, born in The Netherlands, was trained in technical schools as a diesel mechanic. He departed for the United States in 1957 and became a citizen in 1966. After completing the Visual Design program at Kendall School of Design in 1960, he worked as a graphic designer. Stoffel studied with printmaker-painter Harry Brorby (1961-3). In 1962 he married Greta Duifhuis. They have four children: Sonja, Paul, Joy, and Peter. From 1963 to 1966 he attended the University of Michigan where he studied printmaking with Frank Cassara and Emile Weddige, and painting with Bill Lewis and Alan Mullen, completing the requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Design and a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Stoffel was appointed to the Art Faculty at Calvin College in 1966, he was Director of Exhibitions (1966-70 and 1972-7), and Chairman (1979-83). He currently holds the rank of Professor of Art Emeritus. Before retiring in 1997, he served as the Director of the Multicultural Year at Calvin College, the culmination of a long career of service to the college and the community which has included stints as a trustee for the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Arts Council, as a member of the Municipal Arts Advisory Committee and Advisory panels for the Michigan Council for the Arts. He also was Project Director for Connections: A Baroque Festival Year, 1982-83. At Grace Christian Reformed Church he served as deacon, elder, vice-president of council and as the worship environmentalist.

In 1978, on sabbatical, Stoffel studied Nineteenth Century Dutch landscape painters. On his second sabbatical leave in 1984-5, he was the first Artist-in-Residence at Calvin College. In 1993-4, again as the Artist-in-Residence at Calvin, he produced numerous works on the Prairie based on studies done in the summer of 1993 in the Gushul Studio of the University of Lethbridge in Blairmore, Alberta. He has been Artist-in-Residence at the Gushul Studio, always a highly productive stint, numerous times - most recently in 2017.

The artist revels in the open space of Western Canada; it is his homecoming, imprinted as he is by the famous Dutch landscape of his youth, intensely cultivated, flat like water, and the floor of a vast, cloud-filled sky.

The artist’s first art award was in 1962 (West Michigan Regional Exhibit at the Muskegon Hackley Art Gallery and the Christian Art Show in Sparta, Michigan). Since then, he has exhibited his work in more than 150 group, invitational, and juried exhibitions; received more than 30 awards; completed major commissions in design and painting across the United States and has presented over 60 solo exhibits in the USA, Canada, and The Netherlands. After retirement from full-time teaching, he continued to teach drawing workshops. In 2002 he published Passing the Colors: Engaging Visual culture in the Twenty-First Century, a wonderful commentary on art and his life. In 2003 the Grand Rapids Art Museum hosted an extensive retrospective of his work.

“How do you begin to put in perspective three weeks of intense working at one subject? It was the foothills around here that provided the subject matter for me this time. I did that once before as a watercolor project and that worked out well. I was also interested on pushing the notion of light as kind of spiritual exploration. But how to go about that would be the challenge in any case, so we started this adventure (Stoffel Overvoorde, August 2017).”

Now in his 80s the artist is drawing, making designs, and painting in watercolor and oil, concentrating on landscape paintings in which space and atmosphere remain his major interest. Chris Stoffel Overvoorde has made art in Alberta for over thirty years. Our gallery has represented him for close to twenty years.

Landscape painting is exploring nature in a special way. To stand or sit in a landscape is an experience we cannot always express in words. The inability to say it in words has led me to painting. The process of painting allows me to understand that special moment in a new way. Painting is a way of knowing, of exploring, a new way of seeing what at first was ordinary and commonplace. To reach beyond the appearance of the physical and search for the invisible elements of nature has been my challenge.

Alberta is the place of spectacular triumphs as well as defeats of the forces of nature battling against each other. In the west the massive ranges of the Rockies thrust up from below sea level to heights of over 12,000 feet. In between valleys of up to 6000 feet cut across these mountains ranges. Eastward are the plains with the wide-open spaces of the prairie. Here the struggle is less dramatic although erosion by water, wind, frost, and ice has reshaped the land for 60 million years. In the south the Old Man River cuts through the Livingstone Range before entering the foothills.[1] It was this area that I explored making drawings on the spot and recording it digitally. The ridges of the foothills typically run in a northwesterly direction. It is rugged country with steep valleys in which heavy forests are interspersed with grasslands. Sparse trees often define the crest of the hills. 

The sky has always been important to me as a landscape painter, so too the special light of the sky has played an important role in my work. The cloud formations are almost unbelievable as they form against the dome of the sky; sometimes they are sculpted by the winds coming off the mountains. Light and space play with each other here. Light for me is also symbolic, for it reminds me of God the creator who is still at work in His creation. To be able to respond visually is a gift and seeing the show is sharing of that gift. Enjoy.

Reference: W.G. Hardy, Alberta, A Natural History

"A multidimensional artist, Overvoorde works with equal passion and dexterity in both painting and printmaking to create compelling abstract and figurative work, and both small and large scale landscape paintings. These pieces combine as one lifelong investigation and celebration of the spiritual life (Grand Rapids Art Museum, Chris Stoffel Overvoorde: A Life in Art, retrospective exhibition, 2003).

Landscapes "are a response to the technical problems of the landscape, or, actually, the cloudscape....I see in clouds their heavenly, cosmic aspect.  They give me a feeling of smallness. Many of my paintings have been very large, because in that way you become a participant in the painting. You actually experience a shrinkage; you become small in front of the vastness of the canvas" (Chris Stoffel Overvoorde in Rob Schreur, "Words and Works, Chris Stoffel Overvoorde," Dialogue (Calvin College Communications Board Art Journal) vol.17, no.7, 24).

"I do love all this tremendously." (August 2012)

His paintings, prints and drawings are present in many public collections including:
The White House, Washington, D.C.
Concordia College, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Doordt College, Sioux Center, IA
Redeemer College, Ancaster, ON
Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN
Messiah College, Grantham, PA
Muskegon Museum of Art
Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, MI
Hackley Art Museum, Muskegon, MI
Tadlow Galleries of Fine Arts, Holland and White Hall, MI
Forsyth Galleries, Ann Arbor, MI
University of South Carolina, Columbus, SC
University of Windsor, ON
Patmos Gallery, Toronto, ON
Reformed Bible College
Grand Rapids City Hall, Grand Rapids, MI
Houghton College, Houghton, NY
Alma College, Alma, MI
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI
Prince Corporation
Amway Corporation

His work is also represented in private collections in Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, India, South Africa, the United States, and Korea.