A Conversation with Stephen Elliott Webb Regarding ‘Project Selfie’
Stephen Elliott Webb, a Gibbes Museum Visiting Artist, sat down with Frank Conrad Russen, Director of the Principle Gallery, to talk about his background as an artist, coining new genres, and his time and projects while at the Gibbes. Take a peek at their conversation, and be sure to visit Stephen Elliott Webb in studio until November 3:
Q. Welcome to the Gibbes Museum of Art.
A. Thank you. I am humbled and honored to be a part of the ongoing Visiting Artist Program. I am very grateful to the supportive staff who has made this happen. Without their help, I would not be here.
Q. We would like to know more about your background, your beginnings. Who is Stephen Elliott Webb? How do you define yourself?
A. I am a Son of the Lowcountry. A 5th Generation Lowcountry Artist. I studied under the tutelage of my mother, learning color theory, composition, perspective and all the techniques needed to accurately reproduce what the eye sees…Realism.
Q. So Realism is the foundation for your works of art. When and why did you depart from this genre?
A. Picasso is credited with saying “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an Artist”. I became restless in my 20s and moved into my period of loose representation, impressionism. This genre brought me the freedom to create a different way to portray the world. Not unlike the great painters of that time, Monet and Renoir who broke away from what was the norm starting in the 1860s; I broke away from what I was taught and expected to create since the age of 10.
Q. And now, what drives you, what is your passion and your direction?
A. Today my paintings have deconstructed even further. I am an Abstract Expressionist who also continues to incorporate sculpting mixed media onto the canvas. By nature, I am curious, always experimenting, trying new techniques…pushing the limits of what the medium will allow.
Q. Your latest endeavor, ‘Project Selfie’ seems to incorporate your initial foundation of realism, with your abstraction and sculpting technique.
A. I am currently fusing my realist period with my abstract sculpting style to create a new genre that I have coined Real Abstraction. ‘Project Selfie’ is that new genre. However, the intent of the project is also to look at how we, as humans, have always been obsessed with capturing our own image, in a flattering light. A visit to the Gibbes Museum’s miniature collection confirms this obsession. What was once small, rare, private, and costly is now larger than life, prolific, public, fleeting and accessible to all. Is this good? Is this detrimental? How will our descendants view this age of the Selfie? In fact, will they even be able to view any of our Selfies? Is that even important, to leave a legacy? Where will all our Selfies be in 50 to 100 years? How will they be accessed? Should we once again go back to print so that our great-grandchildren be able to see who we were? Should we leave them our phones instead of an album?
Q. What else do you wish to accomplish while at the Gibbes Museum of Art?
A. I have a comment box in the Studio so that visitors can leave their thoughts on
‘Project Selfie’. Over the course of my visit, I am posting these comments via social media, a little ironic, right? Comments may be anonymous or credited.
Q. Any special projects looming in the near future?
A. Yes, Van Gogh Vodka has asked that I come on board as their Artist Brand Ambassador. I will be creating a painting for them that will travel to their events, with the first event taking place in Charleston.
Q. Any personal, creative direction that you can shed light on?
A. Along with ‘Project Selfie’, I plan to create figurative works of art using this new genre, Real Abstraction. Hopefully, time and space will allow me to experiment with the figurative work while I am painting during my visit at the Gibbes.
Q. We look forward to seeing your future endeavors and where the journey takes you.
— An interview with Stephen Elliott Webb by Frank Conrad Russen
Published October 26, 2018
Top Image: Stephen Elliott Webb, a 5th generation artist, considers himself a son of the Lowcountry. His work has moved into a new genre that he has coined ‘Real Abstraction.’