The South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC) held an artist reception for Shelley Stephens to officially open Stephens’ show entitled It’s About Time at SPARC Gallery located at the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce on Mission Street. MICRONAUT, an independent curatorial design firm in South Pasadena, has organized the exhibition.
South Pasadenans and other art lovers came out for the evening reception held Saturday June 30 where they could view the art and meet the artist. Said Stephens, “I’ve had pieces in other shows but I’ve never had a show that was all my own so this really is a huge step and a big deal for me…and I’m a little nervous.” She continued, “but I am proud, happy and excited. I’m grateful to SPARC for producing programs like this and I’m so impressed with Claudia (Bohn-Spector – Micronaut curator) because she is such a professional curator; she knows right away what she wants and everything went so smoothly with her shepherding the project. She and her partner are amazing.”
The artist tells us she is really motivated by African, Asian, and Native American cultures and she will often use elements like Ikat and batik fabrics, which are dyed by using heated wax (a technique primarily used in Indonesia).
In discussing one of her pieces entitled FIRE, Stephens offered, “I really like that ethnic quality of the Ikat and batik. In this piece, you can see how the wax held back the dye in certain places.” She went on to say, “when I put this all together, I had actually created it another way but then I turned it on its side and I liked it much better this way because this reminds me of passion, intensity, fire, flames. So that was a real surprise to me because I had never done that before. And I like the way the “hot” part is isolated, to really be intense right in the center.”
Stephens was born and raised near downtown Los Angeles, where at a very young age she was exposed to people from many different racial, religious, and economic backgrounds. While in high school, her family moved to South Pasadena and she later graduated from Occidental College with a degree in Studio Art. While her professional career has been spent in cultural retail, she has remained a working artist ever since.
This exhibition focuses on Stephens’ most recent paintings and collages. “My work is not figurative, not slick, not representative, not political, not trendy, or overly fine-tuned,” the artist explains. “I am inspired by ethnic societies, by Asian, African, and Native American cultures. What I find in these cultures is often art making based on myth, religion, belief, and ceremony. The ethnic art that I love is unself-consciously involved in a spiritual search and therefore, imparts a humanness and an intimacy, which translates into self-acceptance and honesty; values that I hold most dear.”
Stephens’ vibrantly colored work betrays a passion for life, for nature, and a respect for the spiritual search that gives meaning to her life and practice. She named the show It’s About Time because the struggle to find the time for reflection and creative pursuits has been a constant factor in her life.
The SPARC Gallery is located at 1121 Mission Street, South Pasadena, CA 91030. SPARC Gallery Hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5 pm or by appointment. Please call the Chamber office before arriving. 626-441-2339.