We had the good fortune of connecting with Adair Stephens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Adair, how do you think about risk?
As an artist, the idea of risk-taking is always on my mind. Every piece I create inherently involves risk and the possibility of failure, which adds a kind of energy and excitement to the process. To combat this potentially paralyzing feeling, I view the majority of my creative output as experiments. This experimentation can manifest in many ways: a bold or unusual color combination, a new way of applying marks to paper or fabric, or subject matter that challenges my comfort zone. For example, a few years ago, I spent dozens of hours creating a portrait out of thread and fabric on my sewing machine. When I realized that the resulting face was becoming distorted in a way that didn’t align with my vision, I took out a pair of scissors, sliced it up into multiple pieces, and, like it was Frankenstein’s monster, recombined the pieces into a new face that felt much more successful. It takes a fair amount of bravery to potentially sacrifice those hours of work in an attempt to course-correct. You could end up with something better, or it could turn into a pile of scraps. But taking that leap of faith feels so necessary and exciting. More generally, I also frequently find myself motivated to take risks in my personal life. Part of the process of following your heart and chasing your dreams means evaluating your current circumstances and figuring out if they’re working for you. I’m not afraid to switch things up, find new opportunities, or move across the country if I think it will bring me closer to my goals. Things don’t work out perfectly every time, but there’s always an adventure to be had along the way.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In recent years, I have become interested in learning more about Jungian archetypes, Greco-Roman mythology, and the history of tarot cards. I often think about how each of these systems connect and interact in contemporary American pop culture, and how the associated figures have become deeply embedded within our collective storytelling. The questions I keep coming back to are: how can I depict these characters and creatures in a fresh way that relates to our current state of existence? How can I make these very old stories relevant to a time in which outdated gender norms and expectations are constantly being challenged? I think that my technique, materials, and point of view combine to make my artwork a unique and compelling answer to these questions. I’m excited by bright colors and interesting textures, and I aim to use these tools in ways that are visually engaging and hold a viewer’s attention. When creating a new piece, I most often choose portraiture— I believe that anyone can identify with another human face and empathize with the emotion displayed through a pair of big eyes or the twist of a mouth. While I do work with traditional painting and drawing materials like oil, acrylic, and pastel, I bring another perspective to my artwork with my use of thread and fabric. Over the course of many years of experimentation, I have developed a sewing technique that allows me to create pieces entirely out of layers of thread. I’m currently most excited about the possibilities of these patch-like creations and the many directions I can take them in future projects. Right now, I’m planning a playful series of quilts that combines multiple methods of construction and depicts my mythological archetypes in both direct and ambiguous ways. I’m looking forward to seeing where these new experiments take me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would most likely stick to Montrose, Midtown, and the Museum District. These neighborhoods are definitely the epicenter of the Houston art world, but they also have the highest concentration of fun bars and restaurants to check out. I also love being outdoors, so taking a walk around Hermann Park, Buffalo Bayou, or the Arboretum would be a must.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am very lucky to have a support system that includes a small group of friends and fellow creatives who I meet with on a regular basis, mostly over phone and video calls. In addition to giving feedback to each other on our artwork and creative writing, we also discuss our lives and how to navigate the world as artists. I would be lost without their love, friendship, and support. Bruna Massadas, Katelyn Eichwald, Kyler Ernst, Hélène Schlumberger, Elizabeth Eicher, and Jake Ziemann are among these amazing artists and writers who inspire me to keep charging forward!