Stacey Steers : Trilogy
Mar 16 – May 6, 2017
Robischon Gallery’s “Trilogy” exhibition marks the first time in which Colorado artist Stacey Steers exhibits work from three of her most recent animated films, Phantom Canyon, Night Hunter and the artist’s new work, Edge of Alchemy. Steers is widely recognized for her impressive process-driven, labor-intensive animations composed of thousands of handmade collages on paper. She has also continued to produce remarkable sculptural objects with embedded screens: the Victorian miniature house and cottage from Night Hunter, a recently completed large-scale sculpture of antique beds, inspired by her earliest collage film, Phantom Canyon and an oculus, built to expand on her latest project, Edge of Alchemy. Also premiering in the exhibition are Steers’ large-scale archival pigment prints of her collaged film stills, alongside her signature intimate, handmade collages – each an important part of the artist’s overall process, permitting the viewer to engage with the composition and narrative suggestion of a single film frame.
Phantom Canyon, Stacey Steers' beautiful 2006 surreal animated film, is the autobiographical story of a woman trapped in an unhappy relationship she eventually flees. Steers meticulously crafted the film, constructed of four-thousand handmade collages, to ignite in concert memories and emotions relating to both the personal and psychologically universal in an otherworldly narrative. Steers’ stop-motion projects typically contain eight unique collage images for every second of screen time. In the Phantom Canyon collages, she incorporates figures from Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering work in photographic motion studies “Human and Animal Locomotion,” first published in 1887, along with images taken from 18th and 19th C engravings. These elements are brought into the 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 riveting score.
For her 2011 film Night Hunter, Stacey Steers’ employs images appropriated from silent-era film sources as collage elements. She combines these with fragments of 19th C Pre-Raphaelite illustrations to construct another lyrical, original narrative. Over four-thousand handmade collages were crafted and employed to incorporate and transform film images of the famous silent-era actress Lillian Gish and plunge her into a new and haunting role. Painstakingly constructed over a period of more than four years, Night Hunter summons a disquieting dreamscape drawn from allegory, myth and archetype to create an evocation of the uncanny. Music and sound for Night Hunterwas composed with singular attention to detail by Larry Polansky, a chaired professor of music at Dartmouth College.
Stacey Steers’ newest work, Edge of Alchemy, 2017, is another remarkable handmade film, employing the compelling silent-era actors Mary Pickford and Janet Gaynor. Again, they are seamlessly appropriated from their early features and cast into a surreal epic with an upending of the Frankenstein story as the unintended consequences of technology threaten survival. Told in her signature style, blending the personal and universal, Steers uses the theme of hive/colony collapse as the narrative backbone of the film. Another long-term, five-year project, Edge of Alchemy is the third in the artist’s arresting trilogy. Once more, Steers examines inner worlds from the vantage point of her female leading character, taking shadows of the past to bridge the supranormal and the dire with startling presence and emotional resonance. The project is constructed from over six-thousand handmade collages, each photographed with 35mm film stock. The highly original film score is by the well-known Polish composer Lech Jankowski. As the noted experimental filmmaker Phil Solomon observes, “Edge of Alchemy is the epitome of Stacey Steers' unique vision of collaged re-examination animations, an uncanny way to carry on in the great tradition of Surrealist cinema. Max Ernst would refer to Lautréamont’s sewing machine and umbrella to define the structure of the surrealist painting as 'a linking of two realities that by all appearances have nothing to link them, in a setting that by all appearances does not fit them.' I would add, making it all feel so seamlessly inevitable and inexplicably right...the 'feeling of form', as Suzanne K. Langer might have put it…” Steers work investigates the essence of longing and how it provokes and mediates experience while presenting narratives where Nature plays a commanding role; eliciting a spectrum of responses from her heroines as they both resist and submit to natural forces.
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. The artist’s work has been collected widely, both nationally and internationally. Her animated short films have screened throughout the U.S. and abroad, and have received numerous awards. Her work has 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 top 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 International 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 where she studied with Stan Brakhage and an Advanced Animation Certificate from the Zagreb Film Studio, Zagreb, Croatia. Steers’ Edge of Alchemy was honored with the 2017 Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the highly-regarded and oldest experimental film festival in the US.
*Edge of Alchemy was made possible with generous support from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and Creative Capital.