Every day it seems like more and more cities are erasing their past in order to put up something new that lacks not only personality, but heart. For artists like Stephanie Buer, capturing the relics that once were is a way to express not only her insane talents but to allow people to truly see the beauty of their home’s past. We talked with this incredible artist about her start in art school, her time at GM, and what she’s up to now!
Kendra: Heading off to school for art, it’s clear you had some sort of idea of what you wanted to do or did you? I know we all often change majors and plans once we’re in the thick of classes. What was the case for you?
Stephanie Buer: I actually had a much different idea of what I wanted to do when I started college. I had an awful art teacher in high school. She told me I was too slow, too much of a perfectionist to ever make a career as an artist, and that I should go to school for art restoration. I was young and gullible and still thought adults inherently knew what they were talking about, so I believed her.
So, I started out in community college, studying art restoration. Luckily I had the most amazing studio practices instructor there, who believed in my abilities as an artist, he was very encouraging and supportive. He taught me how to draw and paint and helped me build up a portfolio so that I could get into a more serious art school. That experience was life-changing.
After two years studying with him, I went to Detroit, and it was while taking a landscape drawing class at CCS, that I fell in love with urban landscapes. I was a Junior at the time and in my fourth year of studies, so it took a while.
Kendra: You finished school in ’06 and then did your first show four years later. Were you working in art up until that point?
Stephanie Buer: That’s kind of a messy story. I was making art during that time but very busy doing other things as well. While in art school, on top of drawing and painting, I was obsessed with stone carving and because I was pretty decent at sculpting I was offered summer internships working at General Motors in Detroit, sculpting cars at their design center. It paid really well.
After I graduated, they offered me a full-time job which also paid really well. I worked there for about five years, paid off my student loans and saved up enough money to quit and work full time as an artist. I was also dancing in a ballet company full time throughout college and my years working at GM, so that’s why I had no time to show. I don’t dance anymore but I used to dance and perform all the time. I like to stay busy. Sometimes too busy.
Kendra: Let’s get to your work because WOW. To someone who has zero artistic abilities, your paintings amaze me and are some of the best I’ve come across in recent years. Have you always been drawn to realism in art?
Stephanie Buer: Thank you so much! I have! I couldn’t say why either. I love representational work. I do love a lot of abstract work though, I just intuitively, don’t feel drawn to make it. My heart and soul are happiest in a realm of realism.
Kendra: You’ve noted how you are inspired more by these so-called modern relics, places people have abandoned. You found a lot in Detroit, but have you been able to get the find the same inspo where you are now in a city like Portland?
Stephanie Buer: I do not find it as much in Portland and when I do find inspiration it’s very different. I like it though. I like the challenge of finding things to work with here, it’s much more difficult. The palette is different too, it’s wetter, grayer, rustier, the graffiti quality is pretty poor. It’s gotten much better in the past few years though. Luckily my entire family still lives in Michigan so I go back there often and continue to explore.
Kendra: What is it about these forgotten parts of our everyday life speak to you more so than say, a lively downtown area full of life?
Stephanie Buer: I’m not sure, maybe it’s just intuitive. I do like the practice of finding beauty in places that society tells you, are not beautiful. Or maybe it’s that I generally don’t like people or crowds. I wish there were less people in the world and it was just left alone to do its own thing, without us messing everything up. These places, to me, feel like that. Like we all finally disappeared and the earth, in that particular spot, breathes a big sigh of relief and then is like, okay, where do I begin.
Kendra: On top of painting, you also offer these incredible drawings as well. Do you prefer one style over the other? And do you have plans to add even more mediums to your talented resume?
Stephanie Buer: I honestly prefer drawing, painting is much more difficult but I think I’m getting better. Lately, paintings have been selling much better than drawings though, so I haven’t had the time to draw as much as I’d like. I don’t have plans to add anything at the moment but I’d love to carve stone again someday.
Kendra: What do you have going on as we head out of 2019 and into 2020? Any gallery shows coming up you can share?
Stephanie Buer: I don’t have too much going on at the moment, just lots of group shows all over the place. I had a piece at Moniker in London and will be sending a piece to Australia next month, both new places for my work. I like when the work travels. I’ve been working on grad school applications lately too so that’s pretty exciting but also incredibly scary and intimidating. It’s good to challenge the work from time to time though.