Artful Holiday Greetings! I understand that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague of 1564. That idea keeps rattling in my brain as I wonder what great artistic feats will be accomplished during this period of quarantine or will they come after in hindsight? Nevertheless as I ponder what I may accomplish during these trying times, I turn my focus this month to an idiosyncratic talent, Stefanie Girard.
IN THE STUDIO
I recently had the great pleasure of visiting the Burbank studio of artist/curator/creative, Stefanie Girard. Like the title and text of one of her paintings, she is literally Killing It! Especially during the pandemic, Girard has found a way to reach out to her community and other artists, simultaneously creating her own work. Girard studied Industrial Design in New York and then headed to Los Angeles where she worked as a set decorator and prop master in the film industry. She went on to produce shows for Home & Garden Television for the DIY network which led her to marketing for a DIY book publisher. Her position at the publisher led her to write her own crafting books such as Sweater Surgery filled with ways to recycle old sweaters into new items. A reboot of her creative energy led her to the artwork she is creating today with porcelain, collage, textiles, and mixed media and where text is paramount.
Girard cares about making people smile and she does this not only through her work but also by her community involvement. She is an active member of several community art organizations such as the Glendale Art Association. When the pandemic struck, Girard starting thinking about the long haul and how she could make a difference. She decided to create an art installation on the chain link fence of her Burbank home, aptly titled “Burbank Neighborhood Gallery”, a place where artists from all walks of life could exhibit and even sell their art. She cares for these work with great attention placing then in protective sleeves, arranging and checking on them daily. With some wonderful media attention including a segment on Spectrum news, her open heart, and open garage-studio she provides a small location to have an art viewing experience.
Girard had another idea to provide artists with a way to sell their small work…hence the “Art Candy Machine” was created. The concept is not new, however Girard transformed a candy dispenser machine into the “Art Candy Machine”. Each work of art is $5.00 and the machine only takes fives and ones, no credit here. The artworks are small but wonderful and provided by many local artists. Many people come by daily to see the “Burbank Neighborhood Gallery” and to have the thrill of purchasing work from the “Art Candy Machine” located just outside her garage/studio on the corner of Oak and Fairview. Note that all proceeds go directly to the artist and Girard does not profit monetarily from this venture. Girard photographs her customers with their new purchases and posts them on FB and Instagram. The artists benefit from getting their work out there and several mini purchases have led to commissions. As of this date, 20 artists have been featured with over 300 works sold. You are all invited to submit small artwork for the machine by applying on the following link.
Here is link to Spectrum news video: https://spectrumnews1.com/ca/la-west/arts/2020/09/21/art-candy-machine-dispenses-fun-sized-works-of-original-art
There is a quirkiness to Girard’s oeuvre which is a reflection of her sensibilities, but also there is also a political subtlety to her work. Her noteworthy pieces capture your attention with their high/low approach and double entendres. After initially using text in her work, exposure to works by artists such as Ed Ruscha and Banksy confirmed her desires to use text as an important element. Artists such as Magritte and Kenny Scharf provide inspiration as well. Girard’s artworks often reveal that she comes from the world of crafting and she continually embraces the use of recycled and crafting materials. “Pop Smarkism” is a term that the artist uses to describe her work. For example a colorful floral arrangement is emblazoned with glittered text “Don’t Be A Racist” set in a traditional gold frame. On first glance it seems like a “pretty” painting and then the text emerges and reveals her message.
I’ll Cut You is another example of this approach. The ominous scissors are limned with the title phrase and a cut out heart is central. It plays with the aggressive phrase often used by an antagonist, but here is truly referring the fine craft of paper cutting. She is saying by cutting you are creating.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned her painting Killing it which does have a more ambiguous message. A large egg-like grenade is featured in a simple landscape. We only see the tail end of chicken who has penetrated the grenade/egg. Overhead is a chicken/helicopter flying about. Has this chicken succeeded or not? Have they escaped or have they landed? These questions keep one contemplating this simple composition. And so it goes, Girard continues to amuse and tickle our brains with her art and creative endeavors.