It’s been over a year since we first started talking with our friends at the Houston Downtown Management District about how we could collaborate together to create ways for Houston artists to activate some of our downtown retail spaces in creative, thought-provoking ways.
Finally…we are excited to have helped connect Houston artist Stephanie Toppin with Char Bar for a site-specific window installation and you’re all invited to the Opening Reception Tuesday, March 13 from 6-9 p.m.! Click here for more info.
In her soft sculpture installation entitled Self Portrait, Toppin uses a variety of fabrics to create a landscape of panels that explode with color, texture, patterns, and layers to form a three dimensional interpretation of her current abstract self-portrait painting. Self Portrait will hang in the front window of Char Bar for viewers to enjoy through summer.
You’ll get to know Stephanie a little better in our interview below with her. She’s absolutely delightful.
Tell us a little bit about yourself as an artist.
I’m a painter branching out in combining craft (which I’ve done separately for quite some time) with my fine art. My self portrait work focuses on a language of lines I’ve created in a landscape or timeline form. It’s necessary for all the pieces to be somehow physically linked to the one before and after as if creating one large picture. The work does not end…it simply continues to flood out. I have a desire to make different work, yet it always comes out this way.
Now tell us about yourself as a human being. What would you like us to know about you?
I’m from Houston, TX, born and raised. I do graphic design and admin work at a local IT company. I make little comical drawings promoting the underdog, crochet. There is a blog. We have buttons. I’ve made a few sculptural cakes for fun. I think it’s fun to get an outdated medical text book and make a collage out of the entire thing. I like sewing, reading, podcasts, crochet, traveling, embroidery, thrifting. I’m a person who sleeps little and does much, always willing to learn new things and make new things. I’m always trying to be more efficient with my time and am intense about multi-tasking. I want to eventually do it all.
What was your first impression when we approached you about this window installation project?
Thrilled to do something different. Painting is my first love, but a chance to get out of my comfort zone means so much more.
What did you learn from this site-specific installation process?
This project was difficult because of the small space. The bay window starts at about my waist and is closed in by two smaller doors with a beam running through the middle. I am so grateful to be 5’4”and not claustrophobic. If I were any taller I would not be able to stand inside. I learned how to hang an installation without penetrating the surface of the space. It would have been simple to grid everything out with nails. It took research, 3M tape, a wire grid, many a zip tie, and asking others for advice. There is no artist manual on ways to hang art. Please send me any if they exist.
What do you hope people get from your Self Portrait installation at Char Bar?
While installing, people stopped, looked, some came inside and asked questions; a woman said she loved looking at the piece on her walk to work. Maybe she never gets to go to art galleries as often as she would like to, or at all. Most people are busy. I hope it’s a reminder that not all art is in quiet buildings with art hung on big blank walls. I like the idea of turning the city into an art gallery. I like reminding the public that artists are here to serve a purpose in the community and to the public and please don’t cut funding for art programs in schools. I hope they miss the installation it when it’s gone and I hope they want another piece from another artist after that. I hope it makes some school kid want to take a sewing class.
What is your biggest inspiration as an artist?
I make art for the clarity and release. I have to make things to help myself. I get inspired by having the tools in my hands. How could I not make something?
Who or what has been the most influential to your work?
Solitude. Having the time to drift through a piece of work and create when all the thoughts of the day have melted away, when objects and sounds aren’t shrouding your view, and when you are finally letting go, when it is just you and the work.
What is the best art-related piece of advice you’ve ever received?
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I once showed all my paintings upside down at a gallery, I am not at liberty to say which, and no one noticed. I am not sure what that means.
What’s next for you?
I’ve shed some hours at my day job to dedicate more time to art and craft. I would love to make a larger installation as well as make new discoveries in my paintings and other work. I want to do more work with the public in the future.
Major thanks to the Downtown District and Char Bar for supporting this project!