The artist with two sculptures from her Body Parts series.
Many of us can point to a book that had a big influence on us when we were growing up. But for Strathearn artist Stephanie Medford, the Griffin and Sabine books given to her by her mom when she was a kid, changed the shape of her life. She spent hours with the books, mesmerized by Nick Bantock’s rich, ethereal artwork and the handwritten letters stuffed in envelopes.
She remembers wanting to be an artist since she was a young child but felt that it wasn’t a realistic goal or even a real job. "I spent a long time coming up with something else to do and hated every job I had," she says. It wasn’t until she went travelling for a year and spent time thinking about what she wanted in life that she realized she needed to listen to that persistent voice that had always been with her, the one that called her to be an artist.
For the last five years, Stephanie has dedicated more and more time to creating, exhibiting and selling her art. Her main series, Paper Bodies, is a collection of papier mâché sculptures of human organs—brains, hearts, lungs, eyeballs—which was inspired by a museum exhibit she saw in Philadelphia. The sculptures are colourful and playful and Stephanie hopes they convey the wonder and beauty of the human body.
Collage/papier mâché has a strong pull for Stephanie, partly because drawing and making realistic representations can be scary and hard. Collage allows her to tear things up, be messy and create without focussing on a predetermined outcome. It’s also a method featured prominently in the Griffin and Sabine books that captivated her years ago. "Nick Bantock’s work has this kind of mystery to it," she says. "The layers and the depth behind it feel like you can get pulled in."
Last September was the first time Stephanie participated as a seller in the Strathearn Art Walk. "It’s such a beautiful setting and everybody was so friendly and everybody is there to see the art." It was a good day for her, selling her body part sculptures, calendars featuring photos of the sculptures and small papier mâché birds that she had just started making. "Birds are a little more accessible [than body parts]," she says. "I love birds. I’m doing an unofficial series of all the birds I’ve identified. I’m a very amateur bird watcher but I want to sculpt all the birds on my very short list."
Pursuing what you love and bringing in enough money to live on is a tricky balance for many artists. During that revelatory year of travel, Stephanie also figured out that she had a strong desire to help other people live their best lives. She especially wanted to spark and nurture creativity in others. To that end, she has developed workshops and classes on mindful drawing, mixed-media map making and art camp for adults.
Stephanie believes that each of us is called to a creative life and pursuing that call is a vital part of ourselves. As she says on her website, Everyday Artistry (www.stephmedford.com), "When we heed the call and journey to find our creative selves, we are able to come home, changed and fulfilled."
by Leslie Stewart