Eric W. Stephenson

Eric W. StephensonEric W. Stephenson is an American sculptor based in Chicago whose work explores the form, spirit, and experience of the body, human and otherwise, rendered through abstraction and informed by industrial materials and methods. One such trajectory of work focused on the earthly remnants of insects and plants, another on commemorative containers for the human spirit. His most recent work returns to the human form to figure a language of movement through a mastery of metal. Stephenson has taught at the University of Houston, Rhode Island College, and the Art Institute of Chicago, and has taught workshops at the University of Kentucky, Humboldt State University, and multiple International Sculpture Conferences, among others.
His work has been shown at Fusion MIA during Art Basel Miami, the Elmhurst Museum, N’namdi Gallery, the Koehnline Museum, Grounds for Sculpture, and the Frederick Meijer Sculpture Garden, among others. Stephenson’s work is found in numerous private and public collections, including Miller Electric in Appleton,Eric W. Stephenson Wisconsin, from whom he won the First Biennial Miller Sculpture Exhibition Purchase Prize, the Elmhurst Museum, the Village of Oak Park, and Delta College in Midland, Michigan. Stephenson received his BFA from the Pennsylvania State University and MFA from the University of Houston, and in 2014 completed a SIM Residency in Reykjavik, Iceland. Under Stephenson’s leadership as president of non-profit Chicago Sculpture International from 2011-2015, the organization expanded the reach and profile of sculpture in Chicago through strategic partnerships, high-profile shows, and extensive media coverage.
For the 2012 International Sculpture Conference in Chicago, for example, CSI partnered with Podmajersky to site six immersive installations in storefronts in Pilsen, and with the Chicago Parks District to place 64 large works along the Chicago lakefront from Promontory Point on the south side to Belmont Harbor on the north side. In 2013, CSI and the Chicago Parks District launched The Chicago Tree Project, which commissioned sculptors to transform dead trees throughout the city into public art pieces, while in 2014, the Elks National Memorial Eric W. Stephensonhosted the critically acclaimed “Invoking the Absence.” My current body of work focuses on the abstraction of the human form and how it conveys a complex and layered language. I do this by combining three primary intellectual and formal trajectories/influences.
As bodies interact in space, they create an unspoken and obscured language, yet for the most part, this information is lost in the distractions of life. I seek to capture those moments so we can rediscover energies we put out into the world. Boccioni ‘s “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” and its ability to imply motion while capturing a static moment is an example of this that has been influential for me. As my work has developed, a common comment from viewers is that I am taking a Cubist approach to my re-envisioning of the human form because of my use of angular lines and repetition of forms. I agree that at the beginning of my process I act as the Cubists and flatten my space/forms, I do this by defining a graphic silhouette that captures the body in motion. I then define the subtleties that reside in the transitions between bone and muscle, torso and limbs, line and mass.
But unlike the Cubists, I extrude the articulated silhouette back into a three-dimensional mass that can be pushed and pulled to exaggerate and communicate a sense of motionEric W. Stephenson and weight. Now that I have tangible form, I find myself relying on my second influence. Growing up within the ceramic community I was exposed to the myriad of possible manifestations of a clay object. More often than not the one commonality of these objects housed an interior which leads to the notion that these objects are vessels, both in a literal fashion and in the abstract. Within my work the idea of an implied but unknown interior, drawn from the idea of the vessel in ceramics, reveals my third influence. I have always had a strong interest in the impact of technology on the human condition and how this filters our awareness of ourselves.
This focus also includes the fascination with the imagery of the future and how it can embody both hope and fear and the question; are we losing our perception of self? To infuse these ideas into my sculptures I rely on the traditional and futuristic feel of materials such as steel, stainless, bronze and glass. By using the signifiers found in the environments that we occupy (fixtures, portals, bolts, tubing, screens, etc.) my Eric W. Stephensonintentions are manifested by the cover plates that act as portals revealing that these figures are, in fact, vessels. Through a combination of these trajectories, as well as my dedication to craftsmanship, I have developed an abstract language that hides the obvious signifiers of the human form and allows the cloaked intentions of the figure to be revealed. The result is best seen when the forms are located within the public realm, where they mingle with others and begin the subtle conversations that only the subconscious can hear.

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