Stephanie on art, life, and moving forward: "I glean from all my experiences to inspire my paintings"
Stephanie, one of our guests at ANEW Place, will display her paintings at New Moon Café, 150 Cherry Street in Burlington, from July through September. She came to ANEW after a series of setbacks left her homeless: her work hours were cut, her car was totaled in an accident, and sickness left her with stacks of hospital bills. Now, she’s rebuilding her life--and painting while she's at it. She said she plans to use the money she earns from painting sales to buy a new car.
She spoke about her artistic process, her goals, and her perspective on homelessness. The conversation has been edited for length.
On coming to ANEW Place:
I remember getting here the first day. I just sat. I just sat in the dining room and didn’t say anything. I was just so overwhelmed, grateful, tired, happy, exhausted, drained and hopeful.
On how she started painting, growing up Arkansas:
“I didn’t have a sketch pad, so I’d draw in all the white pages [of encyclopedias], the front cover, back cover, I’d sketch in them. Then my mom got sick of me drawing in every book we had, so she bought a sketch pad for me.
Then I entered an art contest when I like 11, and I used three different mediums, chalk, pencil and paint. I won first, second, third place, using the different mediums.
When I got married, I moved to California and I stayed there for 20 years When I divorced, I was part of a Christian support group, we’d get together and do collages. Art’s always been there. It’s therapeutic.”
How do you see your identity and what do you hold onto as your image of yourself when everything physical is gone?
"Those things don’t define me, the things that I’ve lost. I’ve lost everything before when I fled domestic violence with my ex-husband 20 years ago. Had a whole house full of whatever, and all my kids.
"I believe my experiences just shape who I am. I know who I am in Christ. I know who God has called me to be. I know this wasn’t my beginning, it’s not my end, it’s just a small snippet of my life."
On her inspiration for her art:
"I paint what inspires me and I’m inspired by being a black woman. I love the fact that I can use the canvas to celebrate what I love about women period, but especially being black women, because it’s not really celebrated in the mainstream so much.
The shades, our skin color, our hair, our curves, our culture. I see it as beautiful, so I paint what I think is beautiful."