Hargrave works in a somewhat unlikely, or at least uncommon mix of media, cohering them together such that her pieces resist announcing themselves as any one type of thing all too readily identifiable as object or material. She employs wax in a way few encausticians do, creating works that assert themselves with the visual zing of uniqueness. — Paul D’Agostino


Who’s Afraid of The Pivot?


Beverly Aarons and Stephanie Hargrave in a conversation.

About this event / registration

Date/Time: Friday, June 23, 2023 7-9pm

Location: Juan Alonso Studio, 306 S Washington St #104, Seattle, WA 98104


• a person or thing upon which progress, success, etc, depends

• to modify while retaining some continuity with its previous version

I have always felt like a late bloomer, but have invariably been able to pivot in life, whether from athletics to writing, jewelry design to jobs, or from painting to sculpture. 

Two quintessential influences, Louise Bourgeois and Lee Bontecou, were exceptional examples of women who were not afraid to pivot. They both embraced painting, sculpture, realism, abstraction, the rough and the refined, the sexual (intended or not) and the asexual, light, dark, large, small, paper, canvas, metal, clay. They disregarded what was expected in favor of having full creative freedom, and neither embraced any one category. They pivoted whenever they saw fit. Bontecou even left the public art world completely for 25 years to teach and work without exhibiting. They both had a flair for the organic but embraced the mechanical too, whether in technique or with machine-referencing imagery. Changing mediums was done without apology, and it seems to me their insistence on pivoting is what holds them in such towering positions in the canon today.

I revere these artists in part because I love adaptability. I adhere to the idea that a person should always reserve the right to change their mind – to turn a corner when necessary. Science and art fall into this realm because they are never static (as opposed to organized religion) – they are always changing with new discoveries and revising themselves as new information comes along.

My work has always referenced biology. Being strictly secular, science is my belief system, and visual art my language. The intersectionality between the two is the fulcrum of my creative life. One definition of fulcrum is the pivot about which a lever turns, and for me, the turning lever is my art practice, and my practice is contingent on the pivot. 

Early encaustic work centered on botany, organisms, and cell structures, and over time, the biology umbrella allowed for series offshoots that included an installation based on insects and the words once used to describe them, clay sculptures finished in black encaustic paying homage to fungi and bones, ink on Yupo paper recording my emotional state during Covid, pink paint on paper as abstracted bodily tissues, and x-ray referencing encaustic paintings that feature the translucent fish from the deepest cervices of the ocean. Unable to work in encaustic right after moving to Brooklyn, New York (which coincided with the start of the Covid Pandemic), I pivoted to clay and paper out of necessity. My focus became more about abstracting the body, on both a macro and micro level, whether human, sea creature or arthropod. 

Without losing the threads of meaning, my pivots are (hopefully) less “about-face” changes and more a reflection of the steady march of time and my own aging. To me they feel like natural progressions. I do, however, fully expect the older work to be in conversation with the current work. The change from colorful 2D works to mainly black 3D work would seem an extreme departure if it did not speak so clearly to the beliefs I’ve always held – scientific unfolding, growth, abstraction, our emotional lives, and how we understand ourselves from the perspective of biological functioning. No doubt I will pivot again to color, to flat work, to other off shoots. That is the beauty of the pivot – it swings – it can be circular. It allows for all manor of freedom, including referencing one’s own work, producing generatively, circling back, and pivoting again.

I believe we will soon be listening to our bodies more, and studying our minds less, which would be a cultural pivot I’d certainly be interested in unpacking with the use of some sort of material, perhaps one I’ve not used before.

-Stephanie Hargrave

First Thursday ART WALK June 1,2023, 5-8:00pm

Juan Alonso Studio – 306 South Washington Street, #104

Featuring Shane Peck Trio with Brian Hartman (alto saxophone) and Tim Carey (bass) – 5:00pm

STUDIO SALE – SAT., JUNE 3rd – Noon – 6pm

Rainier Oven Building, Studio 5
1419 S. Jackson*, Seattle, WA

Bainbridge Island Museum


June 30 – September 10, 2023

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