Artist Kelly Stewart shares her fascinating mixed media portfolio. We spoke with her about inspiration and technique.
ABI: Why do you call your mixed media art “Deconstructed Steampunk”?
KS: My latest series is an endeavor into Contemporary Abstract art influenced by the Steampunk Era. Steampunk typically incorporates industrial, technological and aesthetic designs of the past with that of today. This series explores the merging of timelines as I take utilitarian objects of the past and with them, create impressions in plaster, leaving an aesthetic memory of an era gone by. Rather than layering industrial materials such as gears and machine parts, I use the impressions of the objects to forever capture the energy. This led to the “Deconstructed Steampunk” theme.
My inspiration comes from my childhood and the time I spent in my father’s cluttered workshop. It was a visual mess and I loved it! Rusty tools, old hardware and things he found at flea markets were considered treasures. This explains a familiar feeling I experience when I scour salvage yards for the perfect object to incorporate into my work. Each with their own history and story to tell. They leave behind a language of shape and form which correlates between past and present.
ABI: Describe your materials and the techniques you use.
KS: I begin my process by applying wet plaster on board. I press objects such as wire, metal grates, machine parts and gears to create a satisfying tactile sensation in the plaster. I am more interested in the impressions left behind rather than the objects themselves. My process is spontaneous which leads to an evolution of line, texture and form. I also press pieces of colorful glass into the plaster to give shine and enhance the composition. There is an intentional juxtaposition between the rough plaster and the smooth glass.
The painting process is a push and pull relationship of discovery. Many layers of paint are applied then wiped away, revealing intricate designs. Oftentimes, I feel as though I am discovering a treasure map in the process. Silicone molds are created from cast iron gears and filled with tinted resin, creating colorful accent elements that reinforce the industrial theme.
By eliminating the expectations of representing subjects, I find freedom, liberation and reward in the abstract process.
ABI: What are your goals this year?
KS: My goals are to gain exposure in the art world and invite a dialog with gallery curators and art patrons. Recently, I was featured in “Artists to Look Out For” a publication by the Starry Night Program. I believe understanding my art as a business is very important. Although I have owned my own business, promoting myself as a fine artist is a completely different mindset.
I am currently taking an online business class for artists which will teach me more about the power of social media. At the end of the day, it always comes back to being in my studio and creating more work. I aspire to continue creating pieces that translate my feelings of freedom and exploration into moments of discovery for the viewer, sparking questions and conversation.