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Who’s Afraid of The Pivot? The Power of Artistic Reinvention (Event Recording)

Who’s Afraid of The Pivot? The Power of Artistic Reinvention (Event Recording)

Should you fear a creative pivot? Listen to Beverly Aarons, Stephanie Hargrave, and a community of artists discuss the power of artistic reinvention.
Stephanie Hargrave in her studio (left) and Lee Bontecou in her studio (right).

"My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama." — artist, Louise Bourgeois

You’re never too grown (or too old) to pivot. Artists like Louise Bourgeois and Lee Bontecou embraced artistic reinvention with a child-like curiosity and adventurous spirit. For much of her career, Bourgeois was primarily known for sculptures but in her seventies, she created some of her most iconic works as monumental installations. And Bontecou fearlessly pivoted from her signature relief works in the 1960s, known for their aggressive, machine-like forms, to a focus on nature and cosmos-inspired sculptures and drawings much later in life.

Are you ready to pivot in your artistic journey? Listen to this interactive and intimate conversation about the power of artistic reinvention, facilitated by writer Beverly Aarons and artist Stephanie Hargrave.

This isn't just another artist talk, this is a powerful and interactive discussion about artistic reinvention, and it’s ability to unlock the doors to creative transformation.

Also, enjoy this beautiful essay by visual artist Stephanie Hargrave:

The Pivot

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

• to modify (a policy, opinion, product, etc.) 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

Stephanie Hargrave artwork.

Since we recorded this event last year, Stephanie has been accepted into an international art fair. Please consider supporting her travel fundraiser.

Here’s Stephanie Hargrave’s message about the fundraiser:

Please consider investing in me!  I need to raise at least $5,000 to get to Sweden for an Art Fair that opens the last week of April 2024.

I started a local art group several years ago called C L U S T E R, and we recently distilled into a smaller group of 9 artists with similar goals who support one another. We are a collective without a space - our main focus being on the artwork and showing vs managing a brick and mortar space. 

We recently got accepted into an artist-run Art Fair in Sweden called "Supermarket" - I'd really like to travel with the group to participate, but at the moment cannot afford to do so.

The money raised will be used to cover airfare, hotel, and the booth fee.

Your donation can later be redeemed for artwork come June.  If you donate $100, for example, you can come pick out a small 4x4 inch encaustic painting, or use that amount as credit toward a larger work.

I have encaustic paintings, collages, sculptures and works on paper that will all be available.  The “art pick-up” event will be announced to this same list of people.

You can give me money by visiting GO FUND ME - thanks so much.

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Please take a moment read a previous article about Stephanie Hargrave.

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Artists Up Close
Artists Up Close Podcast
In-depth and intimate profiles of emerging and established artists.