Gary Stephens was born and raised on the Mexican border in Yuma ,Arizona, USA. He studied Fine Arts at the University of Arizona and the San Francisco Art Institute.. He has been a full time artist for 30 years. In 1998, he moved to Florence, Italy where he lived and worked for 10 years refining his drawing style.
In 2008, Stephens arrived in South Africa and began his new subject matter with a series of monumental portraits of his artist friends and their African sense of style and dress. He combines his interests in optical effects, stripes, fractured images, with his love of pattern and mark making and uses his portrait series to explore both his visual interests and to engage with the African continent and appreciate the beauty he experiences.
Monumental in scale, Gary Stephens portraits pay homage to the African traditions of hair braiding, hats, headscarves and contemporary urban style. The drawings, capturing a view from behind, focus on the iconic power of a subject’s hair or hat instead of their specific facial features.
Stephens portrays women in head scarves or men wearing caps to focus attention on the power of these “everyday” symbols of African life. He „documents the sense of style and attention people put into how present themselves in a contemporary African setting.
From a visual perspective, he is constantly drawn to patterns and visual rythems, such as geometric repetitions, textile patterns, or botanical shapes. He is attracted to non verbal, hypnotic visual experiences and chooses his subjects for their stripes and textures. He creates patterns underneath the images that randomly break though and energize the image.