By Vicki Byrum Dennis
Special to the Herald
For Benicia artist Stephanie Gray, creating art is just a part of her, who she is, and what she has to do.
“It’s what is inside of me, and it just has to come out,” she said. “I sit down with my tools around me and start to play. There is no real thought process. It’s more intuitive, almost like channeling.”
And the result of her non-process is extraordinary. Her work ranges from abstract acrylic painting to mixed media to jewelry to textiles, and all of it is infused with her own style.
Gray has been involved in the arts all her life. A native of San Francisco who moved to Vallejo when she was 13 and has lived in Benicia for 12 years, she is grounded in the art of the Bay Area, getting her BA in Crafts and Design at San Francisco State University. She has shown her work in galleries, fairs and festivals in Sacramento, Napa and Marin counties, as well as Vallejo and Benicia. Yet she prides herself on still learning.
“My ideas come from inside me but also from classes and workshops that I continue to take. I use those techniques as a jumping point that I run with and am always surprised at the outcome,” she said.
Throughout February and March, Gray will be the featured artist at Gallerie Renee Marie, Benicia, in an exhibit of her work called West Meets East. Gallerie Renee Marie will host a reception in celebration of Gray’s work on Saturday, February 11 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public is invited.
Gray has been interested in Asian art for a long time and studied Chinese brush painting for several years while in college.
“I love the style, the suggestion of a line that your brain completes,” she said.
She began re-exploring the Asian theme a couple of years ago, when her friend Johanna Ely, Benicia’s poet laureate, gave her a calendar with classical Japanese paintings of geishas.
“Johanna told me that she thought I could do something with it…the rest is history,” she said.
“I have had such fun incorporating these classical images into my art, particularly in paintings and jewelry,” she said. “With my collages, I go a bit further and put the geishas in situations you would never expect to see, sometimes serious, sometimes humorous. For the show, I’ll have mainly geisha-mixed media pieces, but there will be some sumo wrestlers and abstract pieces with Asian ephemera in them as well.”
In addition to her art and to her work with Lighting Systems as a lighting quotations specialist, Gray is also the co-director of Gallerie Renee Marie and works with the owner Renee Marie Jordan as well as the other 10 artists in the gallery.
“Renee Marie and I have been friends for years,” she said. “We were having a conversation one day about opening a gallery. She was considering starting one in the front office of her business building. I told her that I had been wistfully thinking of opening a gallery as well. We merged our efforts and were off and running.”
Jordan and Gray opened Gallerie Renee Marie as an artists’ cooperative in May 2015. Eleven artists are now part of the gallery.
“I love the energy we’ve been able to create here, and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Gray said. “I’ve had work in many other galleries as part of exhibits but nothing that has given me the chance to show so much of my art on a permanent basis.”
Gallerie Renee Marie is located at 1038 First Street, Benicia, and is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
For more information call 707-480-5501, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.galleriereneemarie.com.