Artists & Ales 001: Karl Stephan

By Brit Weidel

Introducing AERONAUT’s new blog series “Artists & Ales!” Twice a month, we will publish a new interview where we feature a new artist. This series was created with the intention to tune into the art world and help support the art community through visibility and promotion.

Artists from near and far, and from all walks of life will be featured here so be sure to check back often for all of our upcoming interviews. You never know who might be making the piece of artwork you can’t live without. 

First up, AERONAUT is proud to present local artist Karl Stephan! Enjoy!

Mx. Brit from Aeronaut: Briefly, what’s your background? 

Karl: I’m a child of privilege–an anti-war renegade from a military family. I am very interested in the cultures of the world and in communicating across cultural boundaries.

Mx. Brit: What does your work aim to say? 

Karl: My work tries to express joy in paint in a manner similar to how a musician might with sound. Even if I have to channel anger to do it I want to remind the viewer that along with everything else, there is love in the world.

Mx. Brit: Who and/or what are your biggest influencers? 

Karl: My influences from Art History are too numerous to mention. Some of my key teachers include James C. McMillan, Adele Wayman and Roy Nydorf from Guilford College and Charlie Goss, Carolyn Muskat and Gerry Bergstein from the SMFA along with the Art Ed faculty there, lead by Susan Barahal. Fellow artists are again too numerous to mention. Day in, day out my students influence me the most–anyone who is a teacher will understand.

Mx. Brit: Are you jiving on a project right now? 

Karl: Several, always. I’m preparing a new body of work to be featured in Boston’s prestigious New Gallery Concert Series curated by Sarah Bob. I’ve just started a critical art history class on Zoom for adults. I have also made a proposal to help the MFA offer live art education online.

Mx. Brit: Can you describe your work space/studio setup? 

Karl: I’m fortunate to have dedicated space at Essex Street Studios in Central Square in Cambridge. My work and teaching are both centered there. It’s a very purposeful space with free-cycled tables and chairs and enough room and easels for 3-4 students–socially distanced of course.

Mx. Brit: Do you have a favorite artist’s tool? One that you can’t live without in your studio or work space? 

Karl: I work my materials pretty hard and I have some favorite brushes and palette knives, but the one thing I can’t live without is music. My musical taste runs from Afrobeat to Zydeco. Modern technology gives me access to every culture of the world and therefore every emotion on the human spectrum. Music is essential.

Mx. Brit: How does your work comment on current events? Does social or political events affect how you approach your work? 

Karl: Like many of us I’m attuned to politics and current events to a degree that may not always be healthy. Anger with the status quo energizes me, especially now when we seem so close to real progress on justice, equity and peace. I do not so much comment as offer my work as a comfort to those suffering and working so hard to bring progress

Mx. Brit: How does your individual perspective and/or personal lens add to the voices of art history? Do you bring something new? Do you honor something old? 

Karl: I was traditionally-trained, and I love the art of the past while also recognizing its problems. I’ve pushed past traditional representation toward what I hope is a more universal form of visual communication. I’d like my work to allow loving communication across all of the artificial boundaries we create for ourselves and each other.

Mx. Brit: What inspires you most? What keeps you making art? 

Karl: I live for making connections through art. A student may make a breakthrough. A show may gel and be amazing. My own work may delight someone. All of these are examples of the positive feedback loop that exists in a life formed around art and creativity. Art builds community.

Mx. Brit: How have you developed your career? 

Karl: Teaching is central to my work. I have a Masters in Art Education from the SMFA at Tufts. I teach teens and adults in my Cambridge studio at the Museum of Fine Arts (when open) online via Zoom and in other venues, like Aeronaut. My Virtual Arts and Ales session centers on a process of creation through destruction that helped me identify my visual language and free my work. I hope people will join.

Mx. Brit: What is your favorite style of beer? (Aeronaut or otherwise.) 

Karl: IPA – BIG fan of A Year with Dr. Nandu!

Mx. Brit: What is the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?  

Karl: Take lessons, make art, engage with, think and talk about art, and buy some if you can! Visit www.karlstephanstudio.com and @karlstephanstudio on IG if you care to, or schedule a socially-distanced studio visit.

Brit Weidel is the Community Events Coordinator at Aeronaut. The views and opinions expressed on this web site are solely those of the original author, and they do not necessarily represent those of Aeronaut Brewing Co.

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