Stephen Spiller – Long Island City, NY
I am a photographer making artwork showing the diversity of urban experiences today. To portray that diversity I focus on individual behavior, particularly that which is politically and culturally motivated. To express my ideas I often add text to, and digitally manipulate, my images, sometimes also incorporating and recontextualizing work from other arenas.
For my submitted project I am thinking about the idea of a parallel between cities and museums. The idea goes like this…
A critical function of museums is to present art celebrating a fundamental human need – the desire to be seen and understood, regardless of point of view. Museums enable that desire to intersect with contemporary social, cultural and political issues of all sorts. Indeed, museums are microcosms of larger environments. Just like cities, they are a kind of petri dish in which ideas, instead of microorganisms, are cultured and imagination is stimulated. Billy Collins wrote in his poem “Aristotle” that: “Cities have sprouted up along the rivers teeming with people at cross-purposes—a million schemes, a million wild looks.” The word “museums”, I think, can easily be substituted for “cities” in that quote.
So, with that parallel in mind, I photograph the sweeping array of people visiting museums, all looking at exhibited art work, which I’ve made, each piece representing an urban experience of our time – global and local, social, cultural and political in scope – whether that experience concerns gender, sex, identity, religion, politics, racial bias, law, fashion or so many other topics. In that way, i.e. showing photographs of people choosing what artworks to view, I reach conclusions about what interests people and how the urban experience satisfies their interests.
I work and live in Long Island City, NY. I am self-educated and began photographing in 1985. In 2003 I first used digital manipulation and, a few years later, experimented with video to better define and explain my political and social positions which are the foundation of most of my work.
Examples of subjects that interest me, in no particular order, include: identity, racial prejudice, religion, economic disparity, universal healthcare, denying women control over their lives, affordable, quality education, gun violence, etc. Specifically I have made artworks dealing with beauty, fashion, prostitution, aging, gender, rape, misogyny, politics, etc.
I have exhibited in over seventy U.S. and international galleries e.g. New York, NY; Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; Miami Beach, FL; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cakovec, Croatia; Arles, France; Malaga, Spain; Thessaloniki, Greece; Venice, Italy; Berlin, Germany; Beijing, China; Barcelona, Spain; and more. Most of the exhibitions resulted from a juried selection process. One, in New York City (Chelsea) was a three-person exhibit, the remainder were group shows. I have also been published in issues of Musee Magazine, and I participated in an art panel discussion in a Brooklyn, NY gallery.