Brent Stephens

Brent Stephens lives in Oakland, CA with his wife and daughter. He holds a doctorate in education from Harvard University, has published on school reform with Harvard Education Press, and currently works in the Bay Area. A former classical musician, he plays guitar in the band Downcast and writes and records independently. His art focuses on the people, places, and politics of California and Oakland, and seeks to draw out the stories buried in its beautiful landscapes. 

The work presented in these two series of paintings and mixed-media projects were developed over the last two years - one centers on Oakland and the other on California. Both series present historical figures, events, and locations, all interpreted as modified maps, signs, flags, and landscapes.

The Oakland series looks to cast familiar places and names in a different light. Some of these works take the form of maps, and these maps incorporate less well known aspects of Oakland history. One painting presents a fictional map of 1946 Oakland and asks viewers to contemplate the names of local residents involved in the city's massive general strike. Another painting draws from historical maps of Oakland's old political wards. The series also includes a set of mixed-media collages, each one of which reinterprets a local street or neighborhood in a way that suggests newness, urban energy, and the wear of time.

The California series is comprised of acrylic and mixed-media paintings, many of which interpret our statewide landscape in light of past events. These works contain elements that are both abstract and realist, and often embed text into their surface. Thematically, the series looks at changes to our California landscape and to the people who have lived here, and lingers on the connection between these changes and our present experiences.

Certain works are paired with written essays about local and state history, and the sometimes subtle connections between forgotten events and the way we live our lives. The essays add depth to the visual works, providing clues not only about the creative process but also context for deriving the fuller meaning from the historical references in the art.