As a teenager, New York City-based artist Stephanie Calvert lived for six years in an abandoned schoolhouse turned home that lacked modern conveniences. Her parents’ hoarding tendencies were boundless in the huge building, and remnants of their life there remain piled high within the walls to this day.
After a bicycle accident that left her mother severely brain damaged, Stephanie returned to the schoolhouse to reconnect with her past and find her future. Through her latest series of works, entitled Shame to Pride, Stephanie uses materials left from her parents’ hoarding days to create mixed media art that transforms her inner battle with her past into self-acceptance and positivity.
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“I returned to my childhood home to explore questions my mother can no longer answer in her current mental state,” said Stephanie. “Themes I explored with this project include life/death, creation/destruction and order/chaos, as well as memories, family and finding beauty in unlikely places (and experiences).”
Let’s take a look at just a few pieces Stephanie has created. . .
Although her smile is wide and bright and her eyes clear, May 16th depicts the colorful thoughts and mental clarity quite literally exiting her mother’s mind, leaving her empty and monochromatic.
As you take it in the scene and realize what the imagery stands for, are you filled with the same immense heartache that I am? It’s a powerful mixed media piece, made all the more emotional due to use of items her mother once held dear.
1,000 Prayers For My Mother contains a multitude of tied fabrics on a metal box spring. Collectively, this display’s fiery colors and scattered texture remind me of an ember that burns white hot in the middle and destroys to ashes everything it meets surrounding it.
I ponder Stephanie’s symbolism in this piece. I am reminded of the quilts that use old T-shirts, sweatshirts or sentimental pieces of fabric, and question if Stephanie has ties to these very ties of fabric, and if so, what memories are stirred up. It’s a moving piece brought to life by her amazing story.
When I first noticed Value in Decay, I made a note that it was created using paint on a metal panel. However, typing quickly, I instead wrote “pain on a metal panel.” How close to the truth that really is, as skulls are notorious for bringing up feelings of suffering or bittersweet reminders of the past.
This imprinted image is as worn as the memories of Stephanie’s childhood, which may subside, but are never fully forgotten.
In a similar way, remnants from years of hoarding are discarded, but not completely gone. There is value in recycling them to create something of substance and beauty—something that can be appreciated by others again.
Stephanie’s Shame to Pride project is simply incredible and speaks volumes to her depth and character. Equally compelling are her breathtaking photography and absolutely stunning mineral paintings and prints.