It’s the last weekend to view Stephanie Buer’s Los Angeles inspired body of work ‘Uncommon Silence’ and So Youn Lee’s whimsical ‘Limpid’. The details on both bodies of work must be seen in person to truly appreciate the work. To view available pieces by Stephanie Buer and So Youn Lee hop over to the Thinkspace Gallery website.
We kicked off the year with two stellar exhibitions. In the main room Stephanie Buer entranced those in attendance with her latest body of work ‘Uncommon Silence’. The urban abandoned landscapes and often ignored landmarks of Los Angeles were rendered in picturesque detail. Then in the project room So Youn Lee’s newest body of work for ‘Limpid’ dazzled in their whimsical neon pastel dreamlands and sticker glitter details.
Both exhibitions are on view now till January 28th.
View available work from Stephanie Buer here:
View available work from So Youn Lee here:
Mass Appeal interviewed artist Stephanie Buer who is currently showing in the Thinkspace Gallery main room. The interview explores Stephanie’s creative process and her choice to document Los Angeles in her latest body of work.
Do you consider yourself a documentarian? A storyteller?
I would say a documentarian more then a storyteller. When I started painting these landscapes, I realized that these abandoned and urban spaces change rapidly, either the buildings are torn down, remodeled or continuously repainted. The works capture them in a single moment in time, which will never exist again. I feel like a documentarian when that happens, especially when the buildings are torn down. I think all of the work, in its entirety is telling a story about these spaces in our cities but, each individual piece is documenting a particular spot and a particular moment in that place’s existence.
Thinkspace is proud to present Stephanie Buer’s newest body of work ‘Uncommon Silence’ in our main room this Saturday, January 7th. The Portland-based artist realistic paintings and charcoal drawings capture the vacant and desolate sprawl of abandoned urban spaces. In anticipation of her upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Stephanie Buer to discuss her inspiration, exploring urban spaces, a day in the studio, and so much more.
Join us at the opening of ‘Uncommon Silence’ Saturday, January 7th from 6 to 9 pm.
SH: What’s the inspiration behind the exhibition?
SB: Los Angeles is the inspiration. We wanted to do something a little different for this show, so I came to LA for a week about a year ago and just wandered the city, looking for inspiration. It was a really great experience.
SH: Can you describe your creative process? What does a day in the studio look like?
SB: Once I’ve gathered all the images, gone through them and picked the ones I would like to work with, its pretty straight forward. The creative part comes in when wandering and finding beautiful places to paint and then arranging the compositions. After that, it’s just putting in the hours to get it all done. I work anywhere from 6-12 hrs a day. I bike to the studio, paint or draw for awhile, head to the gym to work out or grab a meal with friends then usually head back to the studio. I can’t work more than about 6 hrs in one stretch, my focus starts to fall apart and the work gets sloppy, so that’s usually when I take a break.
SH: When not working on your art, what is your favorite thing to do?
SB: I love climbing. If I’m not working at the studio, I’m at the gym climbing, at Smith Rock climbing or off in the mountains somewhere. Its so much fun, I can’t get enough. I also spend a lot of time hiking, practicing yoga and biking. I like to stay really active.
SH: What is your favorite abandoned space? Do you have an interesting story to share from exploring different spaces?
SB: My favorite abandoned building to explore is the Packard Plant in Detroit, I think it always will be. I loved that space so much, I spent a lot of time there in college, after college, I’ve been wandering that property for the past 14 years or so. I have a lot of great memories in that space. It’s being renovated now, I haven’t been in it in over a year. It will probably never be the same as it was, so I’m very happy to have gotten to know it when I did. I remember exploring that building around Christmas once and way deep in the building we found some abandoned rooms that were rented out at one time as storage units. They were filled with so many old relics of peoples lives, it was pretty sad but also exciting. We found a bunch of boxes of old Christmas decorations and we decorated the hallways with everything we found. It was very festive and cold and snowy and amazing!!
SH: This question feels ridiculous to ask, but the world is one in which women have to be more on guard. Going into abandoned spaces for your reference photos, how do your ensure you’re safe or push pass any apprehension you had about exploring these spaces. What advice would you give other female artists who are afraid?
SB: I am a very independent woman and I feel very confident in my skills in the wilderness and on mountains but it’s true that in our world, you still have to be careful and be aware of unsafe situations. I never go alone, that’s one piece of advice I could give. Even if I know the space really well. These abandoned places attract people from all margins of our society including a lot of people with mental illnesses. There just isn’t the funding in this country to take care of people with mental issues and they end up on the streets and then in these spaces where they can hide and live and they’re just very unpredictable. Most are incredibly friendly and have great stories to share but you never know.
Also, be aware of the consequences of getting caught, and make sure you’re cool with that before going. Most of the time I can talk my way out of things but if and when I do get caught I like to know the consequence ahead of time so I’m not surprised and then angry. We have a saying in mountaineering, the number one rule in mountain climbing is, don’t fall, the second rule is, don’t fall and the third is . . .don’t fall! I’d say the same goes for this, but it’s don’t get caught! So, go out with others, carry a knife, wear running shoes, bring nothing valuable, be aware and bring snacks!
SH: In a 2012 interview you shared your love of Detroit and the Packard Plant, have you found a similar kinship with Portland or an inspiring location?
SB: I have not sadly. There are a few places I like to wander and as Portland becomes more popular and people start moving here, I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of graffiti which is fun. I like living here though, the creative community is amazing, lots of really friendly, talented people. I also like the easy access to climbing, hiking, and mountaineering. My family is all still in Michigan though, and always will be so its still home and I go there a lot. I think I’ll do more traveling to explore urban spaces in the future too. I had a great time wandering LA and look forward to getting to know other cities in that way.
SH: You’ve shared you’re not a history buff but you have a clear fascination with the past and its influence on the present if you were to have a dinner party what 3 historical figures would you invite and what would be on the menu?
SB: There would definitely be pizza, really good pizza and a couple bottles of wine. I’ve been eating a lot of pizza lately. I would love to sit and chat with John Steinbeck. One of my favorite books of all times is Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum. I’d love to chat with him about his adventures. I know I should probably list some painters or something like that, but painters are weird. We spend too much time alone painting and we get weird. It’s okay though. I climbed in the Bugaboos this summer and was reading these stories about Conrad Kain, a famous mountaineer from the early 1900’s, he climbed with a lot of badass looking pals, including a few ladies. I would love to sit down and hear their stories. I love hearing about people who adventured before it was made too convenient. Everything was difficult and they were so tough.
SH: What excites you about other artists work? What makes you a fan and can you share a few people we should look up?
SB: I really love the way people use paint. Some artists say so much with so little, and the brush strokes and light. It’s too much! There’s some amazing painters out there. I’ve really been enjoying Phil Hales paintings. I can never seem to get enough of John Singer Sargent and Andrew Wyeth either.
SH: How long does one piece take to complete? Do you work on multiple pieces at a time?
SB: I definitely work more than one piece at a time. I usually only do one drawing at a time but I’ll also have two to three paintings in rotation. I use a very limited palette and a lot of the building materials in the images are shared from one image to another so I can get a lot of mileage out of a well-mixed palette. I like switching back and forth between charcoals and paintings as well, they inform each other in really great ways. I’m never entirely certain how long they take though. I always forget to time it. I would guess anywhere from 40-100 hrs.
SH: Kicking off the year with an exhibition seems like a solid way to start the year, what are a few of your goals for 2017?
SB: It really feels great! Last year was a really tough year for me, lots of personal challenges so this feels good. I’ve been so busy the last few months, finishing up work for the show that I haven’t given much thought to my goals. I have lots of climbing goals, I’d love to go back to school and get my masters, travel somewhere new and make a body of work from the trip, there will be a lot more dancing this year, being with my family and friends . . . . after the opening I’m gonna hide in the desert for a bit, I’ll think more on it then.
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 7 from 6-9PM
On View: January 7 – January 28, 2017
Thinkspace is pleased to present new works by Portland-based artist Stephanie Buer in Uncommon Silence, the artist’s fifth show with the gallery. Buer’s incredibly realistic paintings and charcoal drawings capture the vacant and desolate sprawl of abandoned urban spaces. An avid urban explorer, she seeks the quietude and calm of inactive buildings and areas, those marginalized and in disrepair. Capturing the life in absentia of these architectures and environments as they are overcome by vandalism, nature, and time, Buer finds beauty in the remnants that are left behind.
Buer went to art school in Detroit, Michigan at the College for Creative Studies, and spent the following decade in the area, capturing the infamous urban erosion left by the collapse of the American auto industry. In Detroit, a unique city with a host of abandoned industrial vestiges, Buer sated her need for contemplative calm and escapism through urban exploration. Interested in the layers of history that accrete in emptiness, and the stark contrast of desolation in the midst of excessively populated urban areas, Buer’s work began to question our relationship to excessive consumerism and unsustainable consumption through depictions of dissipated spaces. She likens the feeling of isolated discovery when traipsing through condemned buildings and architectural ruins, to her remote wanderings through rural Michigan where she grew up. In search of a poetic calm and beauty in the midst of what most would consider deterioration, she continues to uncover the oft-neglected sublime of the condemned and castaway.
Moving to the Pacific Northwest, where she continues to work, Buer has since begun to capture new cities and spaces through her photorealistic oil paintings and heavily contrasting, dramatic charcoal drawings. Her preference for traditional art historical media is a conscious one, fascinated by how the same media used for centuries can capture a contemporary moment without loss or inadequacy. In Uncommon Silence, Buer has taken on the city of Los Angeles as her subject for the first time, the result of a week spent exploring its recesses and urban derelicts; the works capture the light and atmospheric nature of LA in stark contrast to those of Detroit. An homage to a city that has played an integral role in the development of her career, the exhibition captures the specificity of LA as a place of great cultural and environmental contrasts, architectural diversity, fullness, and scarcity. Known for its murals, contemporary art scene, graffiti, and urban interventions, LA provided Buer with no shortage of color or drama in the landscape.
Her works begin with the journey into the city, where she documents her explorations photographically. Buer then creates compositions from her source material and executes the work with a staggering level of technical precision and detail. Always devoid of people, Buer’s works capture the traces of their intervention and the marks of their passing, whether through the shadow of the hollow structure itself or the evidentiary residues of physical interactions with the space. A recurring element in her work has always been graffiti, a primary way in which forgotten urban spaces are marked and reclaimed. The sense of collapsing temporality is salient, as old and new coexist on top of one another in these peripheries.