Maximizing the Medium: Stephen Wilson

Joshua Shultz

 

Fashion-forward and creative to the core.

 

Not all fashion is art, nor is all art fashionable. Yet when the worlds of art and fashion cross paths, it’s often in the haute, glossy pages of a fashion magazine. Less often does fashion infiltrate the art world, bringing luxury brands to a local gallery.

 

 

That is precisely Stephen Wilson’s goal. The New York artist got his start in the commercial garment industry, where he worked freelance positions and honed enough knowledge to launch his own embroidery software company. But while fashion proved to be his inspiration, it was fine art that called to him—and his distinct style would evolve from an inevitable combination of the two.

 

Wilson leveraged his technical background to create detailed, intricate patterns, weaving together luxury fabrics with pop-culture icons, 3D-printing technology with naturalist imagery, high-end brand logos with cartoonish sketches.
“Beyond limitations of the practical and the ornamental, embroidery is a genuine art form,” Wilson says. “Using embroidery in my work connects it to traditions across time and cultures.”

 

 

He achieves that cross-generational effect through the imagery itself, too. John Wayne, Abraham Lincoln and Marilyn Monroe appear fluidly next to works boasting the logos of Gucci or Givenchy. Embroidery may be what binds them together physically, but American values bind them spiritually.

 

“Maybe you don’t see how the Louis Vuitton logo relates to John Wayne, but I’m drawn to iconographic images that resonate and stay in people’s minds, things that we grow up with,” he says. “What is it about brands and icons that become ingrained in memory?”

 

The answer, in part, lies in their ubiquity. Wilson’s latest series, a stunning example of found-object reclamation with a high-class bent, is called “Luxury,” and replaces canvases with the packaging boxes of exquisite brands.

 

“These boxes are a status symbol in and of themselves and, usually, we are very hesitant to throw them away,” he’s said. “Since I create many pieces using luxury fabrics like Hermès scarves, my studio had become littered with these boxes.”

 

After his wife and mother suggested that he repurpose those boxes into works of art, he created “Luxury,” a series that features intricate, classical-style embroidery (think flowers, birds and butterflies) onto boxes most of us would either throw away or keep in a closet and turn into storage.

 

It’s this melding of classical with contemporary—grandma with Gucci; new-world technology with old-world art—that defines Wilson’s unique style. It is a mix of established techniques and free exploration, with room for inspiration from errors.

 

“I recently took a trip to Italy, and while walking the streets of Florence, I spied the Gucci store window on Via de’ Tornabuoni,” he recalls. “The clothing itself wasn’t what inspired me per se, but it was the entire storefront—from the patterned mannequins to the mash-up of textures and prints covering the walls and floor. The pieces I am working on currently pull from this hyper-clash idea, and it is really funky and multi-dimensional.”

 

To that end, it’s no surprise that Wilson has found success on yet another media platform—social media—where transparency and personality reign. His Instagram accounts (@stephenwilsonstudio and @luxurybystephenwilson) frequently showcase behind-the-scenes videos, visual inspirations and step-by-step glimpses at his craft, making his online presence as fashionable as his art. More information can be found at

www.stephenwilsonstudio.com.

 

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