The Art of Professor Fisher & Daughter Crickett

Crickett smiles and looks up at her father Stephen

There are benefits to growing up in a museum with artists for parents. You could wind up in one of the best art departments in R.I. looking up at the face of your dad-slash-professor.

Nineteen-year-old Crickett Fisher sits on a metal stool in the printmaking studio of RIC’s Art Center. With jet black curls, V-perfect eyeliner and goth black clothing, she is engrossed in etching a drawing on a plate.

Behind her, busying himself in the studio, is her father, Professor Stephen Fisher, who teaches drawing and printmaking. For the first time, they will be exhibiting their artwork together – over 20 still lifes – at IMAGO Gallery in Warren, RI, through April 23.

When asked how she got into still lifes, Crickett is refreshingly frank:

“Still life, as a genre, is considered by a lot of people to be pretty boring. Everybody’s seen the classic fruit-in-a bowl-on-a-table kind of still life that doesn’t really inspire strong feelings. In my still lifes, I’m more interested in putting weird objects together that create a quality of mystery.”

Take her piece “Foxy Girl,” which consists of old dolls with glassy eyes and broken bodies.

Still life of broken dolls
Crickett Fisher, “Foxy Girl,” chalk pastel, 20" x 28", 2021

“People describe my still lifes as creepy, and I’m okay with that,” she says. “My dolls, in particular, give that connotation of being haunted or possessed. I don’t want to create Halloween artwork but I am interested in the creepy. I am interested in creating a space that is unreal.” Why? “Because real is boring,” she answers. Crickett certainly is not.

She is as visually creative as she is verbally creative. She describes herself thusly:

“I was born in late May 2003. That makes me a Gemini. If one subscribes to such superstitions, that likely predisposes me to being an artist (two-faced tricksters who arrogantly try their hand at the divine act of creation).

Still life depicting a clown cup, ceramic lamb and cat faces in weird lighting
Crickett Fisher, “Familiar Faces,” Chalk pastel and acrylic gouache, 21" x 27.5", 2022.

“I grew up in Warren, Rhode Island, in a house-sized Wunderkammer among cats (symbolic of mischief) and art (symbolic of a genetic predisposition to overvalue the mechanism of sight). And I’ve always loved to draw, leading me to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a concentration in printmaking, at Rhode Island College, where I study under the illustrious print wizard Stephen Fisher.” (Otherwise known as her father.)

Stephen Fisher earned his M.F.A. at Yale and has been teaching drawing and printmaking at RIC for more than 30 years. His still lifes, too, transform the mundane into the mysterious, influenced by the moodiness of film noir. One of the iconic objects that frequent his still lifes are venetian blinds shredding objects with their shadow and light.

“Light is the magic ingredient,” Stephen says. “I can assemble an interesting combination of objects to create a still life, but if I don’t find that special light, I just have a nice collection of stuff. When I set up a still life, I’ll visit it at different times of the day and keep readjusting the blinds, waiting for something magical to happen.”

Still life with bust of Buddha, table fan and venetian blinds
Stephen Fisher, “Bodhisattva,” charcoal, prismacolor, graphite and wash, 21" x 26", 2008
Still life of bonsai tree in bird cage, table fan and venetian blinds
Stephen Fisher, “Incarceron,” charcoal, graphite, prismacolor and wash, 21" x 22", 2010

Stephen is also a master of detail, spending countless hours on every square inch of his drawings. “My motto is look harder, see more,” he says. His work has been exhibited in a variety of national and international venues; is found in numerous public, corporate and private collections; and has earned many awards.

If you ask Crickett what she admires most about her artist/father, you’ll find that being uniquely herself is much more interesting to her than emulating her father.

“Obviously, his technical skill is very, very advanced,” she says. “I have a lot of respect for people who’ve refined their craft. His attention to detail and level of focus is something I aspire to, as well as the way he makes decisions about compositions. I may be working on a piece and show it to him and say, ‘Why don’t I like this? What do I do?’ and he’s got answers.”

Stephen is equally admired by other RIC art students, many of whom have graduated and become his extended family. Perhaps it’s that hip 60s quality he has about him. After all, he named his daughter Crickett, and his wife, Katherine Reaves, is one of his former students who earned her B.A. in painting in ’94. Together, they raised Crickett in a home/museum filled with art.

What he admires most about his artist/daughter, Stephen says, is her “absolute fearlessness.”

“It’s funny. This is a kid who wouldn’t ride a bike, wouldn’t learn to swim and cried because the merry-go-round went too fast, but you introduce her to a new medium or a new idea and she just throws herself into it and figures it out. There’s no fear,” he says.

When asked if he worried about Crickett making a living as an artist, Stephen replies, “All parents worry about that. I tell Crickett what I tell all my art students – ‘The studio art degree is not a vocational degree. This is something you do because you have a passion for it.’”

One of his students now works for Pokemon International as a designer; others are educators, exhibiting artists and gallery directors. In fact, the IMAGO Gallery, where Stephen and Crickett are holding their exhibit, was co-founded by Eileen Siobhan Collins, a former student of Stephen’s. Recently, he became a member artist of the gallery.

Meanwhile, Crickett will have her first solo exhibit in May at the Providence Art Club. She won first place in their 2022 competition.

“I enjoyed hearing people’s interpretations and opinions of my work at the art opening at IMAGO,” she says. “It was like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool, my ideas are actually coming across.’ It was great.”

She may not be keeping it real but she is keeping it interesting.

IMAGO Gallery is located at 36 Market Street, Warren, RI. Gallery Hours are: Thursday 12-3 p.m., Friday and Saturday Noon-6 p.m. and Sunday Noon-4 p.m.

Also see Rhode Island College's Department of Art, for information about our majors and concentrations.