Stacey Steers. Trilogy

16 Mar — 6 May 2017 at Robischon Gallery in Denver, United States

1 MARCH 2017
Stacey Steers, Edge of Alchemy, archival pigment print  22.5 x 30 in. Courtesy of Robischon Gallery
Stacey Steers, Edge of Alchemy, archival pigment print 22.5 x 30 in. Courtesy of Robischon Gallery

Robischon Gallery’s “Trilogy” exhibition marks the very first time in which Colorado artist Stacey Steers will exhibit work from all three animated films, featuring Phantom Canyon, Night Hunter and the artist’s newest work, Edge of Alchemy. Recognized for her impressive process-driven, labor-intensive animated works composed of thousands of handmade collage works on paper, Steers has additionally continued to produce remarkable sculptural objects as well – such as the Victorian dollhouse and cottage from Night Hunter and a recently created large-scale sculpture of antique beds, inspired by her earliest film, Phantom Canyon. Also new in the exhibition are Steers’ large-scale collaged archival film stills, alongside her signature small handmade collages – as each are an important part of the artist’s overall process and allow the viewer to see each individual artwork as its own composition and a story unto itself.

Phantom Canyon, Stacey Steers' beautiful 2006 surreal animated film, is the autobiographical story of a woman trapped in an unhappy relationship and her eventual escape through the Grand Canyon. Steers meticulously crafted the film, using close to four thousand handmade collages, illustrations and drawings, to ignite in concert those memories or emotions relating to both the personal and psychologically universal. Along with sourced 18th and 19thC engravings, this other-worldly tender tale in stop-motion, employs eight unique images for every second of animation, incorporating figures from Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering work in photographic studies of motion “Human and Animal Locomotion,” first published in 1887. Brought into contemporary service of Steer’s intimate fantastical journey of the feminine, the artist states that she is “interested in creative engagement with reality through the medium of memory, both as a social force involving shared symbols and artifacts and as an investigation of [my] own personal experience.” Composer and sound artist Bruce Odland adds to the film’s impact by providing a haunting and modern score bathed in atmospheric sound design.

Stacey Steer’s work typically employs images appropriated from early cinematic movie sources as well, from which she constructs her signature visual vocabulary of original, experimental narratives in combination. In Night Hunter, 2011, the artist’s second in the trilogy, approximately four thousand handmade collages were meticulously crafted and employed to transform film images of the famous silent screen actress Lillian Gish. Re-contextualized images from their early cinema settings into a decidedly unique and disquieting dreamscape, Gish plays a new role in the artist’s hands, one drawn from allegory, myth and archetype. Similarly hard won, as was Steers’ previous film, Night Hunter which took over four years to complete and required the artist to create, on average, eight distinct handmade collages for each second of the 15:30 minutes of screen time. An important layer of music and sound for the film was composed by Larry Polansky, a professor of music at Dartmouth College.

As is signature to much of Steers’ work, there is an investigation of the nature of longing and how it provokes and mediates experience. As well, the artist presents narratives which explore Nature itself in a commanding role, symbolizing a range or spectrum of emotion of either disengagement - manifested as fear - or its opposite, as being one with Nature and even its nurturer. Stacey Steers’ newest work, entitled Edge of Alchemy, 2016, is another remarkable handmade film in which this time, the famed historical actors Mary Pickford and Janet Gaynor are each seamlessly appropriated from their early silent features and cast into a surreal epic with an upending of the Frankenstein story and an undercurrent of concern for worldwide hive/colony collapse. Taking five years to complete, Edge of Alchemy is the third in a trilogy for Steers in which she examines inner worlds from the vantage point of her female leading character. The film takes shadows of the past and bridges the uncanny and the dire with startling presence and emotional resonance. The project is constructed from over five thousand handmade collages, each photographed with 35mm film stock. The haunting music was created by the Polish composer Lech Jankowski.

Stacey Steers’ installation presentations featuring film, sculpture and collage have been exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery, (Washington, D.C.), the Denver Art Museum, and the Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg, Germany, among other venues and the artist’s work has been collected widely, nationally and internationally. Her animated short films have screened throughout the U.S. and abroad, and have received numerous awards. Steers’ films have been included in the Sundance FF, Telluride FF, New Directors New Films (New York), Rotterdam IFF, and screened at the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), and MoMA and won prizes at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, the Black Maria Film Festival and the Ann Arbor Film Festival. She is a recipient of major grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital and the American Film Institute and was the focus of a major retrospective at the 2015 Annecy Festival of Animation in Annecy, France. Steers also received the Brakhage Vision Award at the 2012 Denver IFF.

Stacey Steers has a BFA with Distinction in Fine Art and Film from the University of Colorado with an Advanced Animation Certificate from the Zagreb Film Studio, Zagreb, Croatia. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at Boise Art Museum, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA, Denver Art Museum, Decordova Museum, Concord, MA, Schnitzer Art Museum, Eugene, OR, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Kimball Art Center, Park City, UT, Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO, Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver along with exhibitions in the Netherlands, Estonia, Poland and Germany, among others. Awarded several prizes and honors, Steers’ work has been screened at prestigious film festivals worldwide including Sundance Film Festival, New Directors/New Films at Lincoln Center and MOMA, NYC, Black Maria Film Festival, National Gallery, Washington, D.C., Anima Mundi, International Animation Festival, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, Brooklyn Art Center, NYC, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival and many more, with special film screenings and tribute retrospectives including Anneey International Festival of Animation, Centre de Cultura Contemorania de Barcelona, Spain, Heroines of Handcrafted Cinema, Anthology Film Archive, NYC, MacDowell Centennial Exhibition, MOMA, NYC, Cali International Film Festival, Cali, Columbia, and more.

Steers has received numerous awards and honors including John Guggenheim Fellowship, Brakhage Vision Award, American Film Institute Independent Filmmaker’s Grant, Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, five NEA fellowship grants and the Women in Film Award. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, Denver Art Museum, 21c Museum Hotels, Johnson Art Museum, Cornell University, Allen Art Museum, Oberlin College, The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College and significant private collections, as well. Stacey Steers’ upcoming 2016 solo exhibitions include the Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, and South Dakota Art Museum as the University of South Dakota, Brookings, SD.