All images are archival pigment prints. Sizes, prices, and edition information are available on request. Some works are not for sale. (Note: Each image in "Narratives" contains text within, or below, the image.)
My name is Stephen Spiller. I live and work in Long Island City, NY, USA. What I know about art is self-taught, and I think my desire to learn began when I first held a camera in my hands. I recall feeling compelled to photograph many things, but especially people on city streets where I lived, worked, and traveled. Perhaps that happened because I was, and still am, fascinated with the concept of “identity”, and my street experiences offered me insights about myself based on my visceral response toward others. Photography, I’m sure, addressed my yearning for connection.
Gradually I realized my images followed themes of social, political, and cultural interest revealing how life is shaped and lived. My attention focused on drivers of individual passions (e.g. social “causes” like homelessness, physical handicaps, etc.), and text became critical to my expression. I’m now combining media which provides a very flexible platform for presenting my ideas. Additionally, I’m using saturated colors, satire, and humor - an approach that gives my work a contemporary feeling and, I hope, invites controversy.
Although labeling my work “art” sometimes feels presumptuous, I’m content if I respond emotionally to it, believing that: ”Unless art achieves an esthetic shock capable of dissociating us from our established experiences, it is just illustration." (French philosopher Jacques Rancière). Many artists influence me, Chiam Soutine being just one.
Central to my work is the idea that people are exploited by powerful interests. Fashion, for example, influences countless numbers to behave as if constantly on stage, demonstrating who they want to be, are expected to be, or others believe them to be. They present themselves favorably, convinced that distinctive clothing and accessories are required. By overstating the value of physical appearance, they are distracted from caring who they are, engaging in a futile effort to cement contrived “looks” into their identity. Absent immediate and positive feedback, self-worth is sabotaged. Even gratification from positive feedback engenders the risk of false identity. I think beauty and fashion reflect fantasy and encourage false perceptions of identity and an obsession with appearance qua identity.
Recently I have started work on another project about prostitution I've been considering for a long while. One difficulty has been to identity a format in which I could present issues, in story fashion, about not only legalization of prostitution but also, and of great importance to me, the relationship between prostitutes, their customers, and others emotionally impacted.
My current plan is to introduce people and situations into the project using popular tools of communication today, particularly social media. Six works, structured by emails about a client who has disappeared, are presented in the folio titled "Prostitution". Other relevant themes on this subject that I will explore include: money, sexual desire/performance, complications involving a spouse/significant other, victimization...etc.
I have exhibited in metropolitan cities, e.g. New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Miami Beach; Arles, France; Malaga, Spain; Thessaloniki, Greece; Venice, Italy; Berlin, Germany (October 4th - 29th, 2016), etc.; online exhibitions and digital group shows. I’ve also been recognized in U.S. and international competitions as well as various publications.
Berlin, Germany: October 4th - 29th, 2016. The Exhibition travels to other international venues thereafter.
National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation, Thessaloniki, Greece (Group Show: Closed April 8, 2015)
Carter Burden Gallery, New York, New York (Group Show: Closed June 29, 2015)
Venezia Open Art Collective Exhibition, Venice, Italy (Group Show: Closed October 9, 2015)
Spectrum Miami, Miami, FL (Closed December 6, 2015)
Musee Magazine, 2015 Issue # 11 - Vanity
Musee Magazine, 2015 Issue # 12 - Controversy
What I believe
“Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense — the creative act.” Kenneth Rexroth, Disengagement: The Art Of The Beat Generation
“... art is a form of power; it has impact, it can affect change – it can not only move us, it makes us move.” Ossie Davis
Language not only expresses thought, it "...actually determines the way in which its speakers perceive the world." Benjamin Lee Whorf.
"Unless art achieves an esthetic shock capable of dissociating us from our established experiences, it is just illustration." From Art In America, attributable to French philosopher Jacques Rancière
"Fashion Is Murder." Words carved in cement by an unknown author. (My take? It's real life memorialized in a Soho sidewalk. Clichés like Drop dead gorgeous. Killer looks. Dressed to kill. To die for. all expresss fantasy - amusing following a lobotomy.)
December 20, 2015 - Wondering whether to do this. And, if so, how?