Monday, November 21, 2011

Biffybeans at the Banana Factory: I now have my very own art studio!


I am now a resident artist at *The Banana Factory complete with my own private art studio! I move in this week to Studio 249 and I am beyond ecstatic! A real space (236 sq feet all mine!) to spread out and make art - to make a mess, to hang my completed works and to interact with the public. To be a member of a rich art community, to be encouraged and inspired to explore my artistic visions - I really just couldn't ask for anything more! (Except maybe for a team of elves to furnish it. LOL!)

If you can, save the date of Friday Dec. 2nd from 6-9pm because on the "First Friday" of the month, the artists all open their studios to the public as the businesses of the Southside Bethlehem Shopping District host a celebration of art and culture. Stores, restaurants, and art galleries stay open late and offer special discounts, refreshments, gallery openings and more. (The Banana Factory becomes one HUGE party!)

The 2nd and 3rd floors of the Banana Factory are where the artists reside and you can always come up and see the art in the hallways and visit with any artist who has an open door. I think I might enjoy working a fair amount of the time with my door open though I don't yet know what kind of schedule I will keep - stay tuned! If you are planning a visit to the area, send me an e-mail at stephanie at biffybeans dot com to arrange for a studio visit. 

*The Banana Factory is a visual arts and education center in Bethlehem, PA so named for being housed within an old banana warehouse and distribution center. It is has been in existence since 1998 and is home to 25+ artists in residence. The facility includes two large galleries, gift shop, a hot glass studio, ceramics studio, teaching space, and more! It is a non-profit supporting youth arts education.

The Banana Factoy's past The Banana Factory in Bethlehem, PA

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Redesigning Me

October 2011 One of the more challenging aspects of being an artist is explaining to people who you are by what they see you do. While it might be challenging to talk about yourself and the concepts which drive your creativity, it's a crucial element tied to how you wish to be perceived by others. The following is recently updated information which can also be found on my "About Me" page.

Personal Mission Statement: “My world is one of abundance. I believe there will always be more than enough. I create this reality by modeling openness, living in a mindful way, and by inspiring others through my own means of honest self-expression; art, writing, teaching & music.”

Bio: Over the last five years, Lehigh Valley visual artist Stephanie Smith has created thousands of mandalas as a means to discover her authentic self. She believes that much like any meditative practice, this rhythmic art form has the ability to still the mind and bring into awareness the opportunity for healing and transformative growth at a deep level - effectively allowing you to take an active role in your personal evolution by making the conscious choice to be creative.

Stephanie utilizes a diverse range of media such as pen and ink, watercolor paint, acrylic paint, colored pencil, markers, and pastel. Impermanent mandalas are created using chalk, sand, stones, sticks, and seashells. Stephanie not only creates these works of art as a way to encourage personal growth within herself, but also in the participants of her interactive personal growth workshop entitled: “Mandala: An Artful Meditation” in which her goal is to encourage creativity without fear of judgment. Stephanie has conducted this workshop at nationally recognized retreats such as The Summer Rhythm Renewal in Loretto, PA, The Great Rhythm Revival in Sherman, NY, and the Circle of Trees Retreat in Milford PA. In November of 2011 she will be presenting her workshop to the Intro to Art Therapy class at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA and at The Baum School of Art also in Allentown, PA in the spring of 2012.

As a writer, Stephanie is the author of the blog Spiritual Evolution of the Bean - a vast compilation of mandala art, helpful product reviews on a myriad of art and writing supplies, as well as candid reflections on her own spiritual journey. She has been collaborating with her good friend Jim Donovan on his upcoming inspirational memoir, "Serving the Groove" and also pens the Rhodia Drive blog.

Stephanie is also a percussionist, primarily playing West African instruments such as the djembe drum and the shekere- a large gourd shaped rattle.

Stephanie lives in northeastern Pennsylvania and is married to her husband Jeff of 24 years.

Artist Statement:
Maṇḍala (मण्डल) is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle”or “whole.”

In Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions, their sacred art often takes on the circular mandala form which in some instances is meant to represent the universe. To me, the mandala is a rhythmic expression of who you are in any given moment of time, often hinting at something bigger.

My mandalas have always started at a center point (which I view as the self) and grow outward in radiating, concentric patterns. Once completed, simple shapes organized in repeated patterns can often be quite revealing when used for contemplation and reflection. I often find that individual elements (shapes or colors) would quite accurately reflect my general mindset at the time of creation. Pieces produced while feeling a particularly strong emotion would often elicit a strong visual response upon it’s completion.

For years, the mandala form has allowed me to create intuitively, with little to no thought connected towards the outcome. By working in a way that was not dependent on quality, it helped me grow confident in my expressions and over time, my lines would be straighter and my circles rounder because whether I knew it or not, I was building the muscle memory with the repetitive nature of my work.

In the beginning, my mandalas were tight and constricted, typically completed in a single session and were created in sketchbooks or on small pieces of paper. I initially created them as line drawings consisting of a single color- often drawn with a fountain pen. Later works are larger, less constricted and are now exploding with color. I found that I was always searching for something opaque that would work on black paper; white gel pens came first, then artist crayons. Bright acrylic paints over black gesso is now one of my favorites, though I am happy to create with whatever motivates me in the moment.

A self professed art supply junkie with no formal training, I use my naiveté to express myself with fierce creativity -  I am unafraid to try working with any type of media I think might work to express my chosen form.

The mandala has been my journey and it seemingly has no end. There have been days when I’ve worked one after another in what could be described as compulsive, almost as if trying to manifest some unknown result. What I do know is that through these patterns organized in circular form, I have experienced enormous personal growth. They have allowed me to heal old wounds and discover a long forgotten sense of self. It is for this reason that I so openly share my art with the public and also why I choose to teach my process and tell my stories- so others can benefit from my growth and in turn, receive a tool they can use to grow and transform into their own full, vibrant selves.

Stephanie's Blog: Spiritual Evolution of the Bean
Buy Stephanie's art on Etsy: Fee Bean Art
Stephanie's other blog: Rhodia Drive
On Facebook: Stephanie Smith's Mandala Art
On YouTube: Biffybeans
On Tumblr: Small Bean Bites
On Flickr: Biffybeans Photostream
Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @biffybeans
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