“I have been involved in American crafts using both traditional and untraditional means for more than 20 years. Over those years, I have designed dozens of different collections based on the American west and southwest. When I think of Americana, cowboys, quilts and desert landscapes come to mind. I wanted to bring the core of this classic American genre to life with my Americana Series. The question was, how do I modernize the designs and make them truly a Stephen Wilson series? Instead of creating twenty to thirty different pieces of art for a gallery show and a large public piece I decided to combine the two and create a large modular collage of 43 individual pieces that are bolted together for the public show and then taken apart and presented as individual pieces. The combined piece is 8 feet tall by twenty-five feet wide. Each piece was designed and created separately. The finished installation will be on view at the opening party at the Foundry on April 19th as well as at the Blumenthal Performing Arts center for the duration of the Girl of the West Opera. To make this occasion even more special I designed a limited-edition art piece as well as a hardcover book. Both of these are available for pre-order through the New Gallery of Modern Art.“
– Stephen Wilson
THE EDITION is the only work on paper for the Americana series. The image is of the cowgirl from the Rise Up piece, which was based on the classic World War II poster, “We can do it.” The artist gave her a modern look that represents the women of today, by adding tattoos, a cowboy hat, and wildly-colored hair. The edition is created on two separate archival prints. The first archival print is used as the background. This piece combines collage, embroidery on paper, and assemblage. The composition consists of floral and geometric embroidery. The top layer is the cowgirl image that has been embellished with 100,000 free motion embroidery stitches, which is then cut out by hand and mounted as a relief above the background for a 3D effect. The completed artwork is mounted into a shadow box. The Edition comes in 6 different color variations, each color with an edition of 10.
The creation of my Americana show was serendipitous in many different ways. I have been involved in American crafts using both traditional and untraditional means for more than 20 years. Throughout those years I have designed dozens of different collections based on the American west and southwest. When I think of Americana cowboys, quilts and desert landscapes come to mind. I wanted to bring the core of this classic American genre to life with my Americana series.
There is a certain emotion that luxury brands evoke. From the feel of superior materials, to the attention to detail placed into each product, luxury houses like Chanel, Hermès, Valentino, Dior, and Gucci have been creating beautiful products for generations. Every product purchased from these luxury brands comes wonderfully packaged in a beautiful box. Usually we are very hesitant to throw one of these boxes away. They are a status symbol in and of themselves, so, inevitably the boxes usually go into storage somewhere, but are eventually discarded. Since I create many pieces using luxury fabrics like Hermès scarves, my studio becomes littered with boxes.
While working on sketches one day, inspiration struck and I decided to use these boxes as a canvas for my new pieces. Each box is carefully selected and turned into an art piece using embroidery, assemblage, and collage. Each box has its own characteristics and is often vintage in age. All of the boxes are either limited editions or part of very small editions composed of 3 or less works. Once the boxes are finished they are 3D-mounted in a contemporary shadow box frame.
Iconography is an integral part of my work. There is repeated use of icons in works such as my Disorder series and the abstract pictured here. Each icon references pop culture, street culture, and the influence of corporate culture and consumerism in fine art.
The abstracts like Orange Crush contain hundreds of icons stitched in dozens of colors, mixed in with Hermès silks. Each piece begins with the Hermès silk, which is then surrounded with icons, forming stunning waves of color.
There is always something different to be found in a piece from my Abstract series.
I have created abstracts ranging from 12”x12” with 36 individual blocks, to 80”x60” with 1,200 blocks.
Creating one of my sculptures is a multi-step process. As with all of my pieces, the sculptures start with a concept. The skulls, for example, combine the beauty of flowers and butterflies with skulls, a traditional symbol for death and decay. The skulls are the base for these sculptures, which, instead of being created in a traditional manner, are created using 3D printing technology. Each 3D-printed object is created using a mica-print base. When they are finished ,the sculpture resembles pottery. The skulls are then painted and finished using an automotive coat and lacquer, and left to dry. While the skulls are being printed, hundreds of embroidered lace flowers are stitched and prepared to become the second layer of the sculpture. Each flower is hand-fixed to the skull and glued in place. Each skull has over 200 individual flowers attached to it. Once the flowers have been added, the final layer is butterflies. I digitize each butterfly one stitch at a time so they look as realistic as possible. Multiple butterflies are then attached to each skull. The skulls are meant to represent rebirth and metamorphosis. Each piece is unique and is mounted onto a clear acrylic stand.
My work is heavily influenced by Pop Art. Artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Jeff Koons have influenced me for a long time. For
this series of pieces, I wanted to appropriate popular images from the Pop Art movement and re-imagine them in fabric, embroidery,
and thread. The Pop Art series is a combination of all these elements into something entirely new. This section of the catalog mainly
features my Marilyn Monroe series. Each of the Marilyn’s were digitized using millions of hand-drawn stitches and careful selection of
fabrics to bring them to life. The borders of these pieces were actually created using 2” tiles I fabricated using appropriated images
from Warhol works.
I have been designing for embroidery for over 20 years, most embroidery is stitched on fabric, whether that fabric is used for clothing,home decorating or bridal gowns, the techniques used are relatively the same. The fabric is what holds the thread together. I have always experimented with thread and what else it could be stitched on. I have stitched on box tops, leather and other items you would never expect to see stitches on.
My works in paper are created in this manner. Each piece starts with either a giclee or photograph I have taken. The print is then digitally scanned into my workstation and thread is drawn and manipulated on top of the image. Once the Digitizing is complete the real challenge begins. The print need to be cropped and carefully mounted onto an embroidery machine and stitched using on occasion up to 100,000 individual stitches. The challenge is how much thread the paper can absorb before it starts to disintegrate from all of the holes. The mood of the work is often transformative, adding thread graffiti to a construction sign, adding a giant thread mural to the side of a building or transforming a bleak landscape into a vibrant scene. The works in paper incorporate assemblage as well, often combining multiple prints together to form multi layer compositions.
Each of the works on paper are produced in very small editions.
Relief work is how I started creating fine art pieces. The techniques used in these pieces blend American craft techniques like quilting and embroidery with fashion fabrics and three dimensional mounting techniques. Each of these pieces starts with a background that is constructed out of fabric and then mounted to an art board. The backgrounds use different types of fabrics that are often manipulated, painted or dyed. Once the fabric is complete it is stretched like a canvas and attached to the background. The second part of the relief work is the upper image. These are designed separately and embroidered using fashion fabrics from Chanel, Hermes, Oscar De La Renta and more. Once the embroidery for the upper image is finished the 3D mounts are created using laser cut pieces of wood. Each piece is then mounted above the background using stainless steel standoffs in varying heights. The upper image fabric pieces and then affixed to the mounts creating a breathtaking 3D work of art. The subject matter for these pieces varies from exploded butterflies to flowers to fashion icons depending on the series
Robert Mars and Stephen Wilson, struck a friendship after meeting at Art Basel and discovering they shared a few things in common,
including growing up in neighboring towns. They combined both of their mediums and created this series consisting of seven screen
prints created by Robert Mars featuring Louis Vuitton skulls. Once finished, Stephen Wilson added multiple layers of stitching to the
prints. Each piece is signed by both artists and mounted in a shadowbox frame.
Creating one of my abstract pieces is a long process. Each of the blocks are 2"x2". There are blocks that have Hermes fabrics that are laser cut and wrapped around the pieces or the blocks are embroidered with an icon. Before I start a large piece I usually create a digital; template that will serve as a blueprint for where each color will go. Then we start to embroider. I will create hundreds of blocks and then start to lay those blocks on top of the blueprint until the image starts to form. There is a lot of editing involved as the piece starts to take shape. Once I decide on the final layout all of the pieces are glues in place and then nailed.