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Stephanie Wilde Introspective at BAM: 'The Humanities Make Us Human'


  • Daphne II 2016 From The Murder of Crows project

Gandhi said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." For artist Stephanie Wilde, this means addressing social issues through the many works and exhibitions she has created over the four decades her career has spanned. From addressing the AIDS crisis to the disappearance of the honeybee to slavery, Wilde's work confronts audiences with tough subjects in an effort to create more understanding and compassion toward these issues and be open to solutions. From Saturday, June 29, through Sunday, Oct. 13, the Boise Art Museum will exhibit a retrospective of Wilde's career.

"Stephanie has made powerful artwork throughout her and has had a significant impact on Boise's artistic community," said Melanie Fales, executive director/CEO for the Boise Art Museum, on why it chose to showcase the artist. "We wanted to take the opportunity to shine a light on her artistic investigations in one exhibition as a means to illustrate the progression of her career and the way each series built upon, or was influenced by, the last."

The work shown will start with work from 1983 up to the present, all of it political. For all of her series, Wilde undertakes in-depth research, learning as much about each topic from scientific, historical and literary sources. One of her most recent projects is the Golden Bee project, which addresses the disappearance of the honeybee, an issue that has gained attention globally. She began the project in 2008 and spent seven years working on it. Before starting the project, she had been showing her work on AIDS at the Fresno Art Museum. An article came out in The New York Times about the similarities between AIDS and what is mysteriously killing off bees sparked the idea for Wilde.

"I started that project and everyone became really aware of how important the bees are," Wilde said. "These are tough subjects that we really need to address or at least be aware of, be compassionate about and be open to solutions."

  • Off Course From the Golden Bee Project (1)

The retrospective at BAM will have each series delineated with text describing her pursuit of a particular topic including subjects like AIDS, climate change, corporate greed and social polarization. Of drawing it all together, Wilde said, "It's been a little walk down memory lane for me. It's a real joy to think that so many things have been in crates and have not been seen. To bring them out and have them all together has been interesting because you see your life in front of you."

Wilde still has plenty left ahead of her. In addition to dedicating several hours a day to her art work, Wilde is also the owner of Stewart Gallery in Boise which she co-owns with her husband. Many have asked her how it's possible for her to find time for her own projects and for operating a working gallery, a question that puzzles her, since many people who work two jobs are rarely asked if they have time to dedicate to creative endeavors.

"The gallery has been very good for me as an artist," Wilde said. "It has opened my eyes to what the dealers do for artists, and the importance of having exhibitions and a dealer."

  • Silver Tongue 2009 From Harmed project

Wilde was also quick to point out that she works in her studio every day but Sundays, starting work right after dinner and working into the small hours of the morning. "People ask when I find the time to do all this work," Wilde said. "I'm at the gallery but also I'm very dedicated to my work so I'm not social, I'm not going out, and I know what I need to do so I have plenty of time to work in the studio. I'm very committed and have been for a very long time."

That dedication has paid off, not only in seeing her career in retrospective or her recognition for work with the gallery but in awards and accolades earned over the year. Wilde received an Artist in Residency at Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California, in 2017; and a 2015 Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in New York for painting. In 2002, she was awarded the Idaho Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts and, in 1999, a Boise Mayor's Award for Artistic Excellence.

As new issues arise in society, Wilde will be there, addressing it through the platform of art, creating a new lens for peering out at the world.

"Art is so important," Wilde said. "It's very important to the human existence, it's not just to fill space. The humanities make us human and if we don't have them, we're in trouble."