Stephanie Pierce makes laboriously observed paintings from her immediate surroundings that feel glitchy, time-lapsed, and transitory. She has a way of making the familiar (a bed, a plant, a boombox) uncanny. About her process, Pierce says "I paint both towards understanding what I see and away from it until things are brought to a heightened experiential intensity and have a hallucinatory sensation." Pierce's paintings hinge on human visual perception and its idiosyncrasies. At a time when eyeballs are being increasingly monetized and visual perception and content creation is being outsourced to robots, devotion to seeing a single scene as it unfolds over weeks and months is a radical act.
In Searcher (2018) we see, or think we see, a spotlit potted plant in front of a window. Through the window, the sun sits low on the horizon. The painting's bottom half is anchored in shadow-- umbers, charcoals, deep greens, and hints of the golden ochre wood floor. The light in the painting-- buttery yellows, faded tangerine, and spritely spring greens-- seems to dance a complicated refractory boogie as it illuminates the top leaves of the plant. With this piece, Pierce conveys the feeling of looking at a plant in a window while telling us almost nothing about the contours of the thing we see.
Within her oeuvre, Pierce's 2015 painting Howl teeters closest to abstraction. The whole thing glows a soft orange-pink and, smeared into what could be a foggy window, are the letters H O W L in leafy blues and greens, occupying a full half of the painting. The word could be a nod to Ginsberg's now-legendary poem or perhaps it's simply describing what the boombox in the painting's lower half does all day. That boombox and the cherry red milkcrate beside it exist as apparitions. Foreground becomes background as solid objects appear transparent. This painting tells the story of being present in the world around us.
Faldum (2011) shows us a lone figure sitting on a bed. Centered, frontal, they hold our gaze. Daylight pours in, through the figure in spots, landing on the wall above their head. The greens and oranges of the bedsheets mingle with flesh tones as if to show the sitter both there and not there. The painting is a tour de force of presence and absence and expands our capacity for nuance-- a skill desperately needed today.
Stephanie is represented by Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects in NY, and Alpha Gallery in Boston. Follow along on instagram @stephanie_lalaland