Stephanie Buer began pursing a career in art at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan where she fell in love with the city and urban exploration. She spent the next ten years living in Detroit and developing as an artist. Her urban landscapes explore the many layers of history found in the marginal areas of cities. From the imprints of industry and production to its eventual decay, each subject has a historical context, an original purpose that is now lost. She is fascinated by how these places change as they succumb to the manipulation of vandals, artists and the resilience of nature ever slowly growing alongside. Through her art Stephanie seeks to find beauty and peace in these forgotten and unloved areas of cities. She currently works in Portland, Oregon at her studio in the Falcon Art Community.
Can you share a lil’ bit about your new body of work for ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’?
The photographs that i took to work from are all of the Packard Plant and were all taken just before i left Detroit to move to Portland Oregon, so they’re very special. It was difficult to leave so these images are quite emotional to me. When i see them i remember exactly how i felt when i stopped by all my favorite places to say goodbye. I go home to visit as much as i can and will continue to explore the city but these images in particular hold special meaning and really express how i felt at that transitional time in my life.
Please share a lil’ about your love affair with Detroit and the old Packard Plant that is located there.
My love affair with Detroit did not begin right away, it grew on me over the years. Its like a stray cat that won’t stop showing up at your door and next thing you know she’s living in your house and you’re best friends. I moved to Detroit about 10 years ago to attend the College for Creative Studies. Growing up in a small farming town in West Michigan, my entire childhood was spent in the countryside or at my family’s cabin up north. Moving to a big city like Detroit was a bit of a shock, and I was very homesick. I started hanging out at the Heidelberg Project and made friends with some of the artists who lived and worked there. One of the guys was working on a project and he wanted to make a trip to this old factory to pick up some materials and asked if i would help. That was my first trip to the Packard Plant and it was awe inspiring! We went into this old room that was last used as a storage facility for a shoe warehouse, I literally climbed to the top of a mountain of high heels, it was amazing. I instantly fell in love with the building and urban exploration, the peace and quiet of the countryside that i was so homesick for was there. You could watch the seasons change, see flowers and trees grow, there was even wild animals. Yet it was sad that amidst a busy city like Detroit there were these beautiful, man made structures just wasting away in solitude. Everything about it fascinated me.
What fuels you to keep creating?
I’m not exactly certain what it is. Some people feel a natural obligation to help people, be sociable, solve problems, I’ve always naturally ended up by myself, making things. I think I was wired to create, ever since I can remember I’ve been very motivated to create.
You work in charcoal and with oil paints, two of the more difficult mediums to master. What led you to choose them and do you favor one over the other?
I was challenged to try everything in art school, it was a great learning experience. I always prefered drawing though, it was what came easiest to me, and I fell in love with charcoal because it’s so much more dramatic and expressive then something like graphite. I love contrast and nothing gives you a rich, deep black like charcoal. Painting has always been more difficult for me, it’s so much more complicated and I am a little intimidated. I choose to focus on oils because they work really well for landscapes, I love the texture that paint provides, the way you can get these really thick paintings with lots of brush strokes. Also, I think I’m generally more inclined to classical mediums, because I enjoy the history. Sometimes when I’m drawing in charcoal I like to think that with all the advancements that we’ve made as a human race, I’m still using the exact same material to interpret the world around me as cavemen did.
Can you share a bit about your current residency/fellowship?
The Fellowship is a collaboration between the Falcon Art Community and The Calligram Foundation, and it is the state of Oregon’s largest visual arts fellowship, I am one of five artists who have been picked to receive this fellowship. The Calligram Foundation, with is lead by Allie Furlotti provides the support through a monthly stipend and she is collaborating with Brian Wannamaker who runs the Falcon Art Community here in Portland. The Falcon Art Community, on top of being a great collection of renovated buildings in the Portland area also consists of an amazing space which houses studios for artists. Part of the fellowship includes a studio space in that building. Brian Wannamaker also has an incredible collection of paintings, some of which hang on the walls in the space. He has amazing paintings from Martin Wittfooth and Brad Kunkle that I could just stare at all day, they’re so inspiring. This fellowship has been so great for me as an artist just starting out. The stipend definitely helped make it possible for me to focus completely on my artwork and prepare for this upcoming solo show, and the talented community of artists that I work with have also been an incredible resource. If I ever have a question about anything, from stretching canvas, how to use certain paints, framing or shipping, the artists that work here are very knowledgeable.
Please describe your dream project if time and money were not issues?
I would love to do a series of cities in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, maybe even go to Russia. It would be great to go there for a for a few months and do a lot of exploring and documenting. I’m hoping to use some of my fellowship to visit for a couple weeks next summer.
Favorite item in your studio?
It would either be my lucky chipmunk tail, or the drawing that my nephew Keegan made for my birthday when he was five. Its an amazing drawing.
Is there anyone in particular, artist or otherwise, that you’d like to give a shout out to here?
I had a really great instructor in college, Rick Vian. He taught me a lot about landscape drawing and painting and I hold him responsible for my obsession with charcoal. He was also very supportive of me and my work. Whatever I felt led to do, as long as I was happy, worked hard and with conviction he would encourage it.
Any shows or special projects coming up after your exhibit with us here at Thinkspace?
I was recently invited to take part in a big group show in September at Breeze Block Gallery here in Portland (curated by Sven Davis from Arrested Motion). I know that most artists probably don’t get that excited over big group shows but I still do and this one is really important to me. A couple of weeks ago I saw the list of all the artists that will be participating in the show and I couldn’t believe it. I have been looking up to a lot of these artists for years, they’re some of my favorites! I took a big risk moving out here a year ago with the hopes of becoming a full time artist, and I really had no idea if it would be possible. When I look at myself a year in the future, and see my name on that list I just can’t believe it! I feel so incredibly lucky . . . I think I might just frame that list and hang it in my studio.
Take a sneak peek at Buer’s show coming to life here:
Stephanie Buer ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’
Reception with the artists:
Sat, April 28th 5-9PM
Exhibit on view April 28th through May 19th
Thinkspace / 6009 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA / www.thinkspacegallery.com