Substantial, thoughtful, real: three words used to describe any number of potential possibilities. But in the case of Stephanie Iverson, a local painter and visual artist known for pushing the boundaries of her chosen art form, I am certain that these words offer perhaps the most succinct depiction of her relationship to her work, her artwork’s relationship to her community, and to artistic expression itself.
Real- reality- that which is depicted: Originally from Salt Lake City where she was studying art at the University of Utah, Stephanie came to Orcas Island 11 years ago on spring break trip with a friend. She had lived in the Pacific Northwest briefly as a child and “lived the rest of my childhood knowing I would be back.” During her spring break trip to Orcas she became fast friends with several locals, and as she said with a look on her face of simultaneous awe and gratitude, “ I was immediately drawn into the community, and knew this would be my home.” After a short return to Utah to finish her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing, Stephanie returned to Orcas and has been here since.
Whether dabbling in, sculpture, printmaking or diving into a new Terrazzo creation, painting and drawing have been the primary focus of her work over the years. Her original inspiration came in high school, “most of school was very academic, and I had always done well in school. But something really shifted when I started exploring writing and art making. I found that I really wanted to explore my creativity and the deeper realms of what I had to offer.” Things shifted further when her art teacher pulled her aside and told her to keep it up. “My best friend was a talented artist who won a four year scholarship to a prestigious art program. My teacher was afraid that I might get lost in her shadow. And I feel really lucky because I might not have pursued art [at the University] if my teacher hadn’t said something.”
Thoughtful- thoughts- that which inspires: When asked what has most contributed to her evolution as an artist, Stephanie immediately responded, “one of the biggest leaps for me has been getting away from the formal training of my education. For example, I still love the human body, but now I want to depict it in a way that tells a story, in a way that has greater depth and conveys more of our humanness.” A deep sigh, a bit of laughter and long glance across the room, “the human form becomes an archetype, so when I say ‘conveying our humanness’, I mean that the archetype tells a story, there is a question or a desire being depicted, and the answer can be found in our nature.”
So back to the question about evolution…and how she and her work have grown in the last ten years… “I don’t hold back as much as I used to. Not to say that I ‘held back’, per se, but I have certainly opened up more. I am more allowing of whatever wants to come through. I used to be more cerebral, but now I work much more intuitively. Art is an exploration of your own soul- I don’t necessarily have to understand anymore what is happening. And if I am not aware of why I am making certain choices, they are almost always revealed later in my work.” And at last, she shares, again with a bit of laughter, “I do something I affectionately and humorously call Art Voodoo. I will often create something with a magical intention for something that needs to be expressed or healed, in my own life, or the world around me. And most of my major works are so personal, that they end up being a product of this Art Voodoo.” And to counter that she adds, “ I do a lot of personal art work but I have a higher mission that is driven by the interaction that happens when people are creating something together, as a community or just friends.”
Substantial- substance- the stuff: Here on Orcas Stephanie is also known for the energy she has put into creating a recurring community gallery event called the Edge of Orcas. The Edge, as it is commonly known, “is about bringing people together. I see that there are so many people who want to share their work with others but lack the space. I am really into the pure, raw expression that comes out of people, that to some may be extreme, but to others may just be the depiction of truth… and is certainly about pushing artistic boundaries.” Echoing what so many artists throughout history have said she goes on to explain, “there is so much collaborative potential for our community by us just being aware of each other. I want to create an opportunity for people to participate with each other, to not hold back, to be supported and to explore their curiosity.” Besides creating an arena in which local artists can share and create new work, The Edge has also given voice to a growing community of artists who are interested in creating a permanent visual art center. Their idea, as explained by Stephanie, is to create a center that has workshop and studio space for artists of different disciplines, engages in art education and works to “facilitate collaboration among artists and disciplines.”
“My hope,” she goes on to say “is to inject art, for it’s own sake, into the community, and make art more public. Having a collaborative community center could promote a youthfulness and vitality that makes art exciting and accessible. There stands the potential to bring people and disciplines together to really share and express what our values are.” Well said!
The next Edge of Orcas gallery event is set tentatively for some time in May, and is likely to be held, for the third time in the shared studio space of the Living Room and One Way Exit Studio. If you are interested in collaborating or participating in the event, or to get more information about her wall and mural painting business, Stephanie Iverson Decorative Painting and Terrazzo, please call her at 376-8245. For more information about Stephanie’s artwork visit www.1000markets.com/users/stephanieiverson, an online community marketplace for artists and vendors of extraordinary products.