Prismatic Divisions

Stephanie Weber’s Prismatic Divisions

Influenced by Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, and Nathan Oliveria with whom she studied, Stephanie Weber early on internalized a profound intellectual interest and sensitivity to the shimmering ability of light to softly smooth edges, or contrastingly, in its intensity, cast the three-dimensional world into high relief.

Over the course of her career she has concentrated on the logic and aura of these effects, abstracting and reducing shape into bands of color, and in the last decade, manipulating the subtle sheen imparted her hand-mixed hues on aluminum panel supports. In recent works, she explores new iterations of vertical or horizontal bands, adding texture, text, and line; blending or contrasting colors; absorbing herself in the scintillating pull of light.

Newly introduced into these examples are digital elements—details, often of drapery or crushed paper. These are photographs printed onto aluminum strips that become “collaged” into Weber’s compositions. One element among several, the digital imagery offers an unexpected swatch of lustrous, satiny fabric, or highlighted ridges of paper. Isolated and magnified as it is, the strip fools the eye with what appears to be a bit of masterly painting. Wholly intentional is the effect of doing so as Weber paints atop the image, or blends the imagery with thin oil glazes that enmesh the strip seamlessly into the composition. No dialogue is more current in the early–21st century than how new media and digital forms are transforming how we see and relate to art, new and old, a theoretical problem with which Weber artfully plays.

Weber’s twist surprisingly casts painting’s traditions into new light, too. The abstract thinking of the specialist drapery painters from bygone eras illustrates just how mentally satisfying—apart from providing a livelihood—it could be to render the effects of light on fabric alone. With the hint of drapery in digital form enfolded into her compositions there comes a greater sense of visual movement, just as expertly realized drapery added drama to portraiture. Such elements in her panels allow Weber to salute the profoundly creative drives that continue to enrich the ever-evolving history of abstract painting. A philosophical rigor is transmitted through her work as is the personal integrity of her devotion to understanding ideas through painting.

Diana L. Daniels

Curator of Contemporary Art

Crocker Art Museum