How did showing in the exhibition impact your career as an artist?
“My inclusion in the 2019 Betsy Meyer Memorial Exhibition was a really great opportunity to show my work. I installed two major pieces. “Peak” is composed of many conical elements that are created by cutting my old oil or acrylic paintings into spirals and sewing them back together. This particular installation was the largest iteration of “Peak” at the time. The gallery was perfectly suited to the work and I was able to create an installation viewers could pass through thereby maximizing the impact of the work. I also installed a brand new work, “Fall”, which is composed of ropes covered in old paintings. The beginning and end of each rope was attached to the wall at ceiling level. The remainder of the rope pooled onto the floor. The work was placed between two windows opposite “Peak.” The narrow space between the two windows was ideal for this work. I was able to do a number of gallery visits while my work was installed for the Betsy Meyer Memorial Exhibition which is greatly valuable to my career as this work is difficult to view in the studio. The photos from the exhibition have been instrumental in sharing what I do with others and securing additional opportunities. In 2023 both works were installed at a solo exhibition of my work at the Zillman Art Museum in Bangor, Maine.”
Between 2003 and 2008 I made paintings with flowing paint and gestural mark making focused on the people and places in my life. These works satisfied my need to explore my experiences which sometimes seemed to be in conflict with each other. Layering images helped me to understand and resolve this internal conflict because by putting together unrelated images I could create a new reality. These unrelated images were essentially fragments of my experience and working in this way mirrored the fragmentation I was experiencing as an artist, mother, and full time (non tenure) educator. Struggling to be three things at once I was plagued by a sense of failing at all of them. In 2008 after the collapse of the auto and housing industries we faced financial ruin and that sense of failure infiltrated all aspects of my experience. In the studio the ultimate outcome of this was a major shift in my way of working.
It began with the thought that the surface could also be layered. I started to cut and tear my work and when that resulted in 3 dimensional forms I found it satisfied a physical need for my work to take up space. That space engaged the emotional content of my work more effectively than when it was flat. It also it deepened my metaphorical use of layering. In my painting I use an intuitive and destructive layering process in which each new layer obscures some of the previous layer. When I began to cut these paintings the destruction became more visible to the viewer. The cut and then the overlap necessary to sew two pieces together made it very clear to the viewer that parts were missing or hidden. The paintings that I cut up were often deeply important to me. Putting them through this transformation was painful, meaningful, and exhilarating. I told myself that memory and personal experience follow a similar trajectory and began to look at geological formations as another type of layering. My decisions about what shapes to cut and how to repeat them were often inspired by rock formations that I explored and spent time drawing. Rocks provided evidence of cycles of growth, destruction, and regrowth that felt so relevant to my practice.
Just before the onset of Covid 19, in October 2019, I moved my studio home. I am currently creating work that considers the relationship between the decorative and the domestic. I’ve long considered the domestic as a critical space for our psychological development, as such it has held an important place in my work as an artist. Over the past two years while my husband and I both worked from home I adapted to creating work in a smaller space in which I was almost never alone. This resulted in me thinking more actively about the relationship between the decorative and psychological. I make work in a variety of material including acrylic, canvas, fabric, and thread.
Colleen McCubbin Stepanic is an artist who was born in Newport News, Virginia and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Cleveland, and Washington DC. Her transient childhood instilled a lifelong love of travel and exploration which heavily influences her artistic practice. She earned a BFA from the University of Dayton and an MFA from the Tyler School of Art. McCubbin Stepanic has been the recipient of many grants and awards including a 2019 Betsy Meyer Memorial Award and has successfully completed numerous artist residencies including the Joan Mitchell Center, the Millay Colony, and the Vermont Studio Center, all of which were completed in 2016. She was also a Ballinglen Fellowship Artist in 2017. McCubbin Stepanic’s work has been featured in exhibitions in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Buffalo, and Bangor, Maine. She has been included in exhibitions at The LaGrange Art Museum (Georgia), The Susquehanna Museum of Art (Pennsylvania), The Woodmere Art Museum (Pennsylvania), and the Toledo Museum of Art (Ohio), as well as a solo exhibition at the Zillman Art Museum in Bangor, Maine. Her work has been shown repeatedly in many states including, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Arizona, Tennessee, Ohio, Washington D.C. and New York. She has had 15 solo exhibitions of her work since 2003 and has participated in art projects in Budapest, Hungary and Batoufam, Cameroon.