We're always inspired when we have the opportunity to visit artists in their workspaces — today we step into the studio of interdisciplinary, Los Angeles-based artist Stephanie Mei Huang.
Last fall, Stephanie relocated to the West Coast after living and creating work in Marfa, TX, a landscape that she explains was a capsule of creativity, kindness, and community as she explored her own work.
Below, we discuss her evolving work and process (Be sure to experience some of her installation pieces on her website), and a few recent inspirations (off-hue monochromes! Women! Unknown history!)
Photos by Bea Helman
Would you mind telling us a little bit about your background?
I was born in Wausau, WI, moved to Fort Wayne, IN a year later, but grew up in Yokohama, Japan, and Shanghai, China. I just moved to Los Angeles in the fall from Marfa, TX (where I taught art to elementary schoolers K-6 through a non-profit) to start my MFA in Art at the California Institute of the Arts. I am an interdisciplinary artist working in film/video, performance, and sculpture. I’m currently particularly interested in notions regarding forgotten histories/expansion and intimate bodily containers.
Describe more about your time living in Marfa.
Marfa was this wonderful container in the desert that both held space for me (creatively, physically, emotionally, spiritually, intuitively) and simultaneously, I felt so held by my community there in a way I hadn’t experienced so deeply, wholly prior. I spent a month there from Los Angeles post-undergrad for a residency, and decided to stay for what ended up being another 2+ years, because it was such a fertile, gentle, loving place to develop my practice.
I broke my collarbone in a car accident while living there, just over two years ago. My left arm was immobile/in a sling for three months and I didn’t drive on the freeway for a year. My orthopedist was three hours away, and I’d receive multiple offers on any given day of a doctor’s appointment to be driven six hours total to and fro El Paso from friends and strangers alike. People who I hadn’t even spent six hours with one-on-one would offer six hours of driving (my truck purchased with totaled-car money) like that unwaveringly. That sort of unquestioning generosity exists so much more potently in a small town.
That being said, I think that moving to such a small community requires a heightened sensitivity to raising living costs for the existing members of the community, of which in Marfa are predominantly brown, and would love to see an increase in accountability among transplants and newer community members.
What is your personal style like and how has it evolved over time?
I like to keep it funky and I am deeply sensitive to colors. My style does always evolve freely in tandem/in flux with where I am at with life ... at this point of my life, I’m usually covered in clay dust, and also lead a pretty athletic lifestyle, so I gravitate toward vintage utility-wear and ease. It’s definitely playful, sometimes tongue-in-cheek. In heavy rotation for me right now are: a 70s white carpenter pant, off-hue monochromes (i.e. chartreuse on lime green, lilac on mauve), 60s Swiss camo, bright orange socks.
What's inspiring you right now?
Women inspire me: it is so much to be a woman thinking and questioning and feeling in 2019.
What's next for you?
My mid-residency show of my MFA program at CalArts is happening as I’m responding to this interview. I’m really just trying to get deeper into my practice in a sustainable way. Going to Portland next week. I’m hoping to drive to the Arizona border soon but also return to the Presidio/Ojinaga border and Chinati Mountains near Marfa to continue working on a larger, over-arching work in the summer.