Featured Artist: Steph Glass

Steph Rose Glass is a visual artist and comic book writer from Boston, currently living in New York. She makes bright things in bad taste.

Explosion © Steph Glass

How do you plan out a piece before you start?

Usually I have an idea I want to convey, which is apparently odd. I rarely sit down and paint spontaneously. I have a growing list of ideas to do, and the idea itself usually necessitates some material or another, so I figure out how to build the structure I want first and then go in and do it. I do often start with an idea and then add onto the work as it develops. It’s a difficult thing to describe! No wonder everyone’s obsessed with process.

Portrait © Steph Glass

Has formally studying art changed how you work as an artist?

I work a lot more, a lot more often, and I have people knowledgeable about art history and what I’m trying to say that I can bounce ideas off of. All of that is amazing. I have so many things that I want to do.

“Green” © Steph Glass

Has it changed how you think about and define yourself?

The downside of studying art is that it’s injected a lot of crap into my brain about galleries, and cliquey fine art politics, and art as a financial investment, and making shit for rich collectors that I could do without, and I’m trying to figure out where I want to sit in relation to all of that right now. To be honest, being exposed to so much more work has me thinking that there’s not a lot of people making things like mine. That feels good.

Installation © Steph Glass

What is the significance of the pink tent? Is there a story or a meaning?

The pink tent is something of an in-progress piece. I wanted to create something immersive, like a naturally formed cave. It became a lesson in adapting to new discoveries — the contrast between the caged outside and the clothing that makes up the skin, and the way light filters through when you’re laying down on the inside are both things that weren’t part of my original design. I’m letting it sit while I rethink my approach to the inside and bottom, but I am quite happy with how experiential it is even now.

Glass Icon ©Steph Glass

Are you inspired by pop/counter culture?

Sure. Though I’m not exactly plugged into modern mainstream popular culture, “counter-culture” is a super relevant influence for me. I’m a comic book reader and writer and I have a really deep appreciation for the form and how it lets you handle time and space, and right now I’m trying to talk about that with some of my “fine” artwork. Comic books are one of the few art forms still commonly considered “not art” in the post-modern art world where almost anything goes, so I enjoy really shoving that in people’s faces.

Self Portrait © Steph Glass

Is there a significance to the human figure in your paintings?

I enjoy portraiture as an exercise. I’ll paint any model I can get. You have no idea the number of self-portraits in my sketchbook. I’m a little bit self-obsessed. I think of a lot of my more abstract works as self-portraits too.

Self Portrait 2 © Steph Glass

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

I get sometimes very strange reactions. Teachers of mine often laugh in disbelief. Usually what happens is classmates and peers of mine understand or at least like what I’m trying to do formally, and often my teachers don’t. I think people react viscerally to the fact that I use colors straight out of the tube, like pure blacks and neon paints, and how casual I can be about construction and technique. Shirley Irons said, lovingly, that I’m not trying to make things in good taste, and I think that’s a completely accurate assessment. Peter Hristoff once told me he wasn’t sure if I had good ideas or if I just got lucky.

I have a really great tattoo that I use as a litmus test of people’s personalities: either they laugh and say “Holy shit, that’s awesome,” or they frown and get uncomfortable and judgey. I think my painting is the same way.

Portrait © Steph Glass

What is your goal as an artist?

I have lots of goals. I’d like to make some money, first of all. I’d like to use art to improve the real world in a tangible way. I think that’s the most important thing.

To that end, I’m really trying to illustrate the artistic process in some of my current work. Andy Gerndt keeps telling me that what artists do is magic to non-artists. And I know that personally, because I didn’t consider myself an “artist” until I was maybe 19. It’s something that can seem very opaque, very “I could never do that, I can’t even draw a straight line, that’s just not who I am.” For me, the end goal of trying to demystify art is to make it more accessible to other girls and people who don’t think they could ever do that. I could name you a lot of female artists with similar goals who improved my life so massively.

Diary © Steph Glass

Is there a unifying theme in your work?

Not consciously, not at this point in my life. I’d call out formal experimentation as a major throughline, though. Most of my paintings are not just two dimensional images; they move off the canvas in some way, or use the canvas itself as a ground and leave it uncovered to keep focus on the actual elements. Lately I’ve been working with the idea of iconic paintings, as opposed to abstract or representational – and there’s another comic art reference, frankly. Where on the plane of complete abstraction to photorealistic representation to pure iconic representation do you fall?

I love all of the bright, expressive colors in your work. Do they mean something to you?

I try to push everything to the extreme. It often gets me in trouble in my personal life, but it does mean that I make interesting things.

Diary © Steph Glass

Can you pick a piece and talk about what it means to you?

My diary paintings are about my sobriety. I’m thinking of calling them Counting to Infinity, which I believe I cribbed from an out-of-print version of the Invisibles by Grant Morrison called Counting to None, although you never really know where you get these things. The terrifying thing about sobriety is that it hypothetically never ends. You’re never done. You’re stuck in your own head forever, and that’s the conquest, that’s the win. The plus side is that you get to make horrible jokes about your own alcoholism, should you ever want an entire room to fall silent.

Steph can be found on instagram @stephroseglass

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Introducing Andy Conley

Andy Conley is one of the founders of Boston Visual Artists and has been working as a Boston photographer for the past few years.

R1 © Andy Conley
Model: Michet

Is there a unifying theme in your work? 

Honestly and Progress. I am still learning A LOT and I meet people every time I am out that teaches me something new. I don’t think their is a unified theme like gender or race. Its more of a personal theme of constantly pushing myself to try something and being as honest in my art as possible. 

Is there a personal meaning to any or all of your photographs? 

It depends on the shoot. Some are more personal and address something that affects me. I have a lot of anxiety and depression and planning a photograph around that can be very therapeutic.  

Other shoots ‘meaning’ is just to bring me happiness and to challenge myself to be better than the last time. I love the act of shooting and lining up an image in camera. Knowing you walked away with a great portrait. Its especially exciting when the model and myself get along well and have good creative chemistry. Thats when Ill shoot like, 500 shots. I also use photography to remind myself I still have a fun imagination lol. Coming up with an idea I know no one else probably has.  

“HULK HANDS” © Andy Conley
Model: Tori Roisman 

How do you plan out a shoot? Are there poses, compositions or scenes you plan out beforehand?

Usually it starts with a theme. I have something I want to say but 9 times out of 10 do not know how I will do it. I sit on that idea for a while and slowly build the “set”. With these types of shoot I will think about it so much that by shooting day I have everything so figured out I can basically take 1 shot and have my image. Images like “Hulk Hands” and “Monkey Nipples” have started that way.

When it comes to just portrait shoots, I am a bit more cavalier. I will just invite someone over and begin shooting. I don’t know what I want but will know the moment I get the shot. Too me, its all in the eyes. I will hold a camera on a posing model, looking through the view finder, and simply sit there, not shooting, until I see the look I am going for. It can take a moment but you can usually notice when a model finally lets their guard down and really LOOKS at the camera. Going into it, maybe I’ll have an idea for one or two poses but then its all shooting from the hip. 

“Neo Francais” © Andy Conley
Model: Hannah Rose Scotti

How did you start as a photographer? Do you have any specific artists who inspire you?

I started in high school! My familiarity with photography and the art goes back some time. My father was a hobby photographer and we had a dark room and an enlarger when I was really young.

When I finally reached high school I took photography as an elective and fell in love with it. We shot on film so I would get to do the whole process of getting it developed and found I was quite the natural at it. All the people in class would have me roll their film and I would give small instructions to people who weren’t listening while the teacher spoke. I ended up skipping gym class all year and would just go to the dark room to develop. My gym teacher wouldn’t care and would mark me ‘present’. I got a 100 in gym AND photography. Now that I type this answer, I am seeing how weird it is that they grade you in gym… 

As for specific artists, I have a few that really spoke to me. Of the greats; Alfred Stieglitz – I mean, The Steerage is considered one of the greatest photographs ever taken, you gotta give him credit obviously. Richard Avedon is another that, in my practice, I discovered and fell in love. He’s one of the greats so I don’t need to say much about him. His portraiture is some of the best taken. He was able to capture his subjects emotions and capture honest images. The piece of his that SPECIFICALLY stood out to me was ‘Dovima with Elephants’. I must have spent hours just staring at that image.

As for new age artists. I really enjoy Nicholas Bruno. He is a current American photographer who is inspired by his night terrors and sleep paralysis. Maison Mètamose. She is a French tattoo artist that does a lot what she calls “organic poetry”. Its a very abstract and cubist form of art. Her ability to put her original pieces together on human skin is really incredible. She has a great use of negative space. I don’t know what it is about it, but I just love the coordinated chaos. Finally, Id say Ed Mason. He does live music photography, all black and white, and his images are more art than documentation. He’s able to create these brilliant images. Live photography is great because your subject is doing their complete own thing, and you have theatric lights that create a new scene every second. I recently got to do it and really enjoyed myself!   

Do you consider yourself more of a studio photographer or on-location?

Definitely more of a studio photographer. I enjoy being outside and doing everything there. Its nice, but I find myself almost clueless to what I wanna shoot. In a studio I have complete control and usually have an image already in mind or have an easier time thinking on the spot.

“MONKEY NIPPLES”  ©Andy Conley
Model: Leila Magnolia

Can you explain the meaning behind one or more of your photos (Monkey Nipples)

Monkey Nipples (MODEL: Leila Magnolia) was in limbo for a long time. That piece discusses censorship. We share 99% of our DNA with Chimpanzees and you can show them, male or female, in all their glory. You  cant show ANY of a women’s nipple though. This is not new news to anyone. To me, that is purely the over sexualization of the female form. Everyones got nipples! What makes my nipples any more appropriate than a women’s? Their’s are actually far more useful. Women are told to cover up to protect… I don’t know, something. Young men? themselves? I forget what reason Evangelicals and GOP are telling people these days, but I assure you, its bullshit. My picture is basically a ‘fuck you’ to these censorships and groups demanding it. I don’t know if it means anything coming from me, a white male. BUT if I can bring some type of social questioning to someone that will be enough. It took a long time to get someone to shoot this with me and I am lucky that Leila was so badass and into the idea.

Hulk Hands (MODEL: Victoria Roisman) was another that I am very proud off. This one is supposed to be as random as it appears. A lot of photography today is very premeditated to appear ‘random’ and there are very trendy themes you always see. I was speaking with my friends about it one day and I joked that I might as well ‘have a women in underwear, eating a grapefruit, and wearing hulk hands’. Boom. I did it that next week. I did it to almost mock all those other people who just put someone in a trendy situation for likes. Have more to say than that! Or at least don’t put some inspirational bullshit in the caption, UGH!

“Woman in Rain” ©Andy Conley
Model: Lauren Marston

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?

It changes piece to piece. I wish I had the attention span to continuously shoot the same theme over and over. I have tried! Prisms. Black and whites. Femme fatales. Noir. Lifestyle. I just cant focus that much on one thing. Im too ‘A.D.D.’. I live a tornado-like life. Everything I own and think are spinning around me in utter chaos. My emotions ARE my sleeves. Everything I wanna say or do spins around me, ripping roofs off other peoples homes and occasionally I reach in and complete a project thats been spinning for a bit. 

What is the weirdest thing you’ve done for a photoshoot (Or a good story) 

Woooo good questions. I don’t know if I have any good stories. Besides probable trespassing charges that could be brought up with me. Ive covered people in paint and food. The models face when first seeing the backdrop I made for Monkey Nipples was funny. The one I have coming up is honestly probably the weirdest. I cant say much about it but I will say it involves a live duck!

“Woman Sits atop Roof” © Andy Conley
Model: Alisa Kryzanovski

Featured Artist: Madeline DeWolf

In one sentence, can you say what the series “Ethan” means to you? If it’s too personal or you’d like to leave it up to interpretation that’s ok. “Ethan” is about healing, the series itself is a story about my experience with sexual assault, it is about speaking up and getting stronger.

How do you start a mixed media piece like this? Do you start by painting, writing, or something else?I usually start a piece like this by brainstorming an idea after I’ve got a clear narrative I begin to collect images and sort through the box of stuff I already have.Then I just go for it, arranging pieces of paper and seeing what works. I glue everything down and then I add to it with paint or ink.

How did you start as a visual artist? Do you have any specific artists who inspire you?Growing up art was my first form of expression, my most comfortable form of communication. My mother took me to a lot of museums in Boston as a child,so my first experiences in the world of art were with some of the greats; Monet, Rembrandt, Degas. Today some of my favorites are Ray Johnson, Jenny Woods and Georgia O’Keeffe.

What is the significance of the color in the series?I use to want to be a therapist, that’s what I thought I would be when I grew up, specifically an art therapist. I’ve studied a lot about the psychology of color and how different colors make people feel different things. I try to incorporate color in this way into a lot of my pieces. With a series like this, filled with emotion, I chose colors that represented (to me) the emotions I was feeling about the pieces themselves. That’s why the paint went on last, when all was said and done, I just let the colors show how each piece made me feel.

I know you are in school for art, how do you think this affected you as an artist?

Being in school for art has changed the way I look at myself as an artist. When I started 3 years ago (with my major undeclared) I still thought of art as a hobby of mine, something I was wildly passionate about but didn’t believe could be a career. It wasn’t until I worked with my teachers Kelly Popoff and Penne Krol (two people who have been very influential to me) that I realized that I could do this if I really wanted to. It’s been a lot of hard work, sometimes discouraging even, but worth it. I feel stronger now that I’ve been through the art program at my school.

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?My work has always been very personal, more like a diary than anything. I make art about things that are often left unspoken (sex, abuse, drugs, suicide), it’s in your face and raw. Some people have told me that my work makes them uncomfortable, that secretly makes me really happy because it makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I wouldn’t say there’s a particular theme to everything I do. What I would say is that my art is form of healing for myself and the dialogues that I’ve engaged in due to showing my pieces are rewarding.

Madeline can be found on instagram at lupine_art_