Initially, I am attracted to found objects because of the beauty of their forms. When I begin to feel the resonance of that particular object in the everyday world, the magic begins to take hold. Art is a transformational process integrated with everyday living. The purpose of art is to change how one looks at the existing world. As the world is filled with connections, the objects I have chosen to use in my work illustrate these connections. Although I am especially drawn to objects that combine all the senses (a synesthesia experience), making connections can be personal as well as universal. Whether it is a headlight, a musical instrument, a window, a wagon or a mirror, the interaction is dependent on the viewer engaging and therefore interpreting the work of art. Therefore, I do not intend an absolute meaning, rather an open sea of interpretation that changes as the viewer and the artist evolve together.
Color Xerography, Musical Instruments, Mirrors and Flat Work
I became involved with color xerography when I was studying color photography and trying to move beyond the traditional realistic photograph. I soon discovered the mystery and painterly distortions of color xerography. From there, I became involved in combining these images into a more sculptural three dimensional form.
My color xerography work consists of three series. The first is painterly renditions of birds, fish and self-portraits. The birds and the fish are symbols of the soul in motion, the endless journey towards our true nature. Whether through water or air, they travel underneath us through the subconscious or above us in the realm of the spirit.
The second series is of musical instruments with a color Xerox affixed to the surface of either a piano keyboard, a violin or another musical instrument. On the keyboards, the images are cut into long strips and attached to the slats of wood. They are portraits, colorful patterns of fish and birds, abstract patterns and maps. My fascination with musical instruments began by a simple appreciation of their visual beauty and then blossomed into the idea of synesthesia, the crossing over of the senses. If you can experience the sound of a color or the way music looks to the eye, a lot of boundaries begin to dissolve and more of the essence emerges. Music symbolizes the process of transformation in motion.
The third series is created by scratching the silver off the backs of mirrors and inserting images on the underside. The viewer cannot help by see themselves in the work of art. I am drawn to the mirror, not only as a symbol of self-reflection but also as a device used for safety, reflectivity, scientific experiments as well as for vanity and curiosity. The mirror pieces, similar to the musical works, take an already existing object and fuse it with an image from another realm. In this way, the fusion illuminates a new understanding of both subjects.
In my work, alchemy opens up a sea that stretches from the world of the mundane into a world of magic. I use everyday objects to shed light on these connections. By exploring these relationships, I must admit there is a frightening aspect involved in exposing one’s self to the world—the fear that what will be revealed is the true core behind the self, the secret recesses of the unknown or the unconscious. But it is through this core that I am constantly striving to come to terms with a deeper, wiser inner self, a self that can integrate the power of the psyche and communicate a universal truth, a truth that touches the power of creative energy itself.
Rebecca Stephens, an artist living in Boulder, Colorado has presented a collection of works that challenge audiences to “hear” color and “see” music. To accomplish this end, she uses a synthesis of piano keyboards, violins, mirrors and the overlapping use of color xerographic images. Most of these images are of nudes, fishes, birds and portraits of people. These become the performers that create responses she feels will provoke her viewers to experience a crossing over of the senses. This experience, called “synesthesia” gives people a chance to gain a familiarity with the internal world of the musician and the artist. She dissolves these boundaries by offering alternate sensations for the partaker or listener to savor. Many of us have admired the visual beauty of a piano, while not knowing how to unlock the myriad of sounds and percussive effects that lie within. She circumvented this barrier with the use of maps which reminded and lead to a better understanding of the visual nature of sheet music. I am intrigued by her use of color to express music, as performers frequently refer to music in terms of color and medieval treatises, popular in their day, refer to specific colors being assigned notes on a musical scale. Intuitively, many of us touch this crossing over of the senses when we select a certain style of music to accompany dinner and another for the morning hours. I believe she has carried this awareness one step further. You might be inspired to pick out some Debussy that will match the drapes.
Creating art is a multi-sensory experience, a synesthesia of sorts: the sound of color, the texture of a smell, or how music looks. A combined sensory reality is a diagram for recording life and art, not as conflicting agendas, but as a whole picture with everything moving in unison. Perhaps when the final layer is peeled back, all journeys are linked by a common spirit, that reveals an infinite garden of interrelated paths.
Ask Rebecca Stephens about the inspiration for her art and she’ll explain joyously that serendipity has been her constant partner and navigator. With her companion in hand, Stephens combines photography, color xerography, painting and found treasures to create montage and collage in a way that will challenge and startle you into abandoning conventional interpretations of what is real.
Stephens studied dance, creative writing, painting as well as visual arts. She learned how to manipulate the straight photographic print to extend beyond a time-bound representation of familiar images.
Remaining in Boulder after receiving her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Colorado, this Marin County-bred artist succeeds in understanding and utilizing the potential beauty of material not ordinarily associated with aesthetic concerns.
Through synesthesia-the crossing over of the senses, such as experiencing the flavor of colors or the fragrance of music- she invites you to trade your well-practiced definitions and interpretations for the wonder of discovery. Take in her piano pieces, and you’ll uncover the sensual imaginings of music hidden within the melody of a woman’s body. The written word does not travel well here, and will distract you from the tour. Abandon all notions of predictability, or remain forever grounded to the ordinary.