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Award-winning artist Stephanie Pierce speaks on campus

By Emma Kahn

Section: Arts

April 21, 2015

On a tour of the Boston area, artist Stephanie Pierce discussed her work with the Brandeis community on Friday, April 1.

Her visiting artist lecture included a preview of her portfolio and all the paintings and drawings she had compiled over the years. Pierce has been the recipient of many awards for her artwork and her teaching of art, receiving grants and funds needed to exhibit her masterpieces. She describes her work as being that of “representational painting.” Her subject matter consists of common sights and experiences, and reflects variability and movement found in these spaces.

Pierce led the audience through her artistic transformation, highlighting key moments and situations which brought about her fascination for the liveliness of still-life art. One important scene was a carnival ground struck by a tornado. The painting of this scene is based on the aftermath that she happened upon, but the finished work takes liberties in time and movement, creating a constantly changing landscape that the viewer feels is impossible to grasp.

Her work generated in the studio suffered for its static quality, and Pierce struggled to find inspiration in what she found in the studio. Several breakthroughs, however, highlight the constant variability not of the objects she observed but of her perception of them. Her earlier graduate school artwork was grid-like, but also succeeded in creative liberties in the lined space of her studio. Following graduate school, Pierce spent a period of time documenting her bed. Dozens of pictures of her bed capture unhinging moments and spaces in which shifts of light and time open the space into a moment of chaos so that her audience searches for a fixed image, but eventually must abandon the task. In her personal bio, Pierce refers to her multiple paintings of her bed, stating, “The intimate and almost universal space of a bed has become a platform for metaphors and ideas; it’s a space that can bend towards dream space, landscape, absence or presence.” Pierce seeks to paint confoundingly dense pieces in which both the presence and absence of a form represents the movement of life in a single place.

In her painting process, she struggles to find that moment of chaos that presents itself in her work. She constantly fears “the anarchy hour” in which her painting appears static and lifeless. However, she seldom allows the painting to reach this stasis. “I’ll paint them until I can recognize the space dissolving and the tangibility is lost,” Pierce said. You can see this dissolution in her piece titled “Yellow Chair,” in which the chair by the window disappears upon closer focus and the space assumes a disarray of warm, inviting colors. Her success lies upon not the unique subject but the unique way in which she places importance upon light and space, and the transformability of the subject.

Pierce surprised her audience at Brandeis with an interesting revelation: Her paintings and drawings are largely influenced by the punk culture she grew up with. In fact, she listens almost entirely to a handful of punk albums on repeat as she paints, so much so that the music becomes a methodical piece to her process, allowing certain lengths of time to pass based solely upon the length of the musical tracks. With this announcement she added that the punk music she listens to is surprisingly controlled and calculated, amidst its chaotic sounds. While the music may have dissonance and takes liberties to avoid conventionality, there is a definite structure behind the punk music she listens to, which always resolves itself in the end.

The organized dissonance and chaos of the music she listens to allows her to get lost in her art and create dramatic emotions for herself and for her viewers. “I can’t control how people respond to my paintings, and I don’t think I should,” Pierce said. “It’s what’s in my heart. Perhaps people relate to them, and I would hope that some of [my work] is universal in association.” While Pierce ties on personal memories and affiliations with the familiar spaces in her life, she draws viewers in with her uniting interpretations of everyday space. Pierce has created a portfolio ht speaks volumes to all.

Brandeis art students and professors were overjoyed at the opportunity to speak to Stephanie Pierce and receive a sneak peek of her artwork in advance of her upcoming shows. Pierce’s art is currently on exhibit at the Alpha Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston along with the work of other artists. Her exhibition titled “Radiant Welter” will be on display from April 4 until April 29.

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