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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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