Stephanie Taiber is an artist based in Chicago, IL who works in photography and installation. She holds a BFA in Printmaking and Photography from the University of Arizona. Stephanie’s art practice explores the relationship between memory and identity, taking a special interest in the tension, which shapes self perception, between internal and external constructs especially for women. Her work, though personal, is influenced by the life and writings of Virginia Woolf.
Stephanie has exhibited nationally and internationally, receiving several juror’s awards and has recently been selected as a Top 100 artist for Aint Bad’s Curators Choice (2018), a Review Santa Fe 100 Photographer (2018), a Top 20 Finalist for Brighton UK’s Open ’18, a Top Ten Finalist for the Summer Fresh Exhibition at Klompching Gallery in New York (2017) and was shortlisted for the Lucie Foundation Photo-Made Scholarship (2017).
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Resonance
2016 – ongoing
I am interested in the shift between how a woman is seen and how she sees herself. This tension that arises between the internal and external constructs of female identity is an undercurrent that continues to shape my work. I often turn to Virginia Woolf not just for inspiration but for companionship. Here, inside this fiction of a friendship, I flourish with perceived validation and see, maybe for the first time, a pervading silence.
This work references autobiographical moments and rhythmic patterns of self-reflection. There is a natural oscillation between intimacy and aloofness, longing and withdrawal, time and space, then and now. Within each moment of being I am identifying an essential value, something concrete and material, to represent ideas of protected intimacy and a perpetual distancing from the self. I call upon a veneer of vulnerability and conventionality as a purposeful appliqué in protecting one’s own privacy though out the lifelong process of needing and being needed. Inside this space sexuality and strength emerge outside a framework of prescribed behaviors designed to empower others.
The use of pink allows me to flow in and out of public and private female sensibilities and to connect a collection of moments into a chronology dictated by impact. The color itself hinting at a presence, attaching and recoiling from an implied cast of others. I also look to the physics of waves, a major motif in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, as a structural foundation for my image making. Waves ascribe to the patterning of emotional fluctuation and the perpetuity of endurance. I am constructing a rhythm, like waves, like breath, to the act of being a woman.
When and where did Rosonance begin?
My own musings of worth, power, and vulnerability were the impetus for this project. In 2016 I was navigating my way through several difficult situations and a trying bout with depression. I had retreated into Virginia Woolf’s novels hoping to better understand what was happening in my life at the time. Inside her stories, I experienced a space to bare witness to my own narrative where previously muffled memories and new understandings quickly rose to the surface. I began to see how years of silence had come to shape my identity, constructing a thick veneer, leaving me to feel more connected to Woolf and the characters in Mrs Dalloway than I did to myself. In translating these feelings into art, I was not interested in revisiting specific facts or illustrating event details, but instead wanted to make work about impact, to reveal how one moment complicates a lifetime of others, and how the collision of these experiences slowly construct a fiction that over time, becomes identified as the self. I don’t believe people need to know Virginia Woolf’s life story, or even have read her works to tap into the undercurrents of this project.
Given the political upheaval and turmoil in my hometown, Chicago, and across the entire country, I struggled to make work that was so deeply personal in its origin. About a year into this project the #metoo movement took hold and strengthened my resolve to address these social and intrapersonal dynamics of female identity. I received this new momentum in conversation (about what had always felt like a secret) as a sign to push forward, a serendipitous nudge to get it out there. In so many ways, this project is me, telling my story and the long-term implications of keeping quiet.
Where do you see this project going?
This project continues to inform me, and for that reason has room to expand, but likely not in its current form. I feel restless to propel my work towards a more multidimensional space exploring new interdisciplinary means of expression. I continue to reap inspiration from Virginia Woolf, reading her fiction, her biographies, diaries, and stacks of academic papers which contextualize her work with trends in science, philosophy, psychology, aesthetics, and so on.
That said, I feel this project taking a turn. I have been concerned with internal tensions that are unending. Now, I am interested in applying this same tension outward into relationships, exploring notions of sexuality, bonding and attachment, using the garden as a mapping out space for these interpersonal dynamics. I am really excited to challenge myself to venture further away from conventional approaches to photography and create more experiential work.
I would love to exhibit this work more comprehensively, where I can create more of an experience and control a space. For me, right now, the book form is that space. I’m working on an artist book now, the book itself a nod to the project’s literary inspiration.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
In addition to my study of Virginia Woolf , I find creative inspiration in frequent walks along the shores of Lake Michigan and visits to a nearby protected prairie/bird sanctuary, I am compelled by the idea that the mind is not simply the content of its thoughts or even the feelings of a body, but is also distributed in the world and projected onto objects. I am fascinated by what I respond to on these walks. I also truly love to garden, to exhaust myself digging, to think and plan and problem solve what is happening from morning to evening, week to week, plant to plant and make sense of it all.
Beyond that, I am so fortunate to be a mother and a yoga teacher. As a mother of two teens, I need to observe carefully, to sit with fear, to be patient, loving, hopeful, and receptive - all important aspects of creating art. Teaching and practicing yoga keep me feeling connected to my own instincts. As a teacher I continue to develop my own voice, challenging myself to write new and inspired classes every week. This is such great practice for sequencing and editing my art work. I see how many ways there are to gather elements together to create a whole, and how each small rearrangement can elicit big changes.
Lastly, I participate in two critique groups with people I truly admire. Here we challenge and support each other. Whether my fellow yoga teachers, dedicated students, or fellow artists, I feel like there is no shortage of creative inspiration in my life.
What’s next for you?
This year I plan to exhibit new work in April, and I’m feeling really excited about my ideas for that show. Shortly after, I’ll be taking my first research trip to Cambridge, partaking in a week long course on Virginia Woolf and her gardens before venturing out to explore London and the surrounding landscape. I tend to produce work in spurts, deep diving for a while and then coming up for air to reset. I’m hopeful I can identify a residency this year, so I can really push myself on a more consistent basis. I think its going to be a great year, stay tuned!