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James Stephens

External/Internal/Stone (view 1) | 17″ x 31″ x 18″ | Oil on panels | 2019

Artist Statement

James Stephens is known for his paintings of invented landscapes and interiors and also mixed media sculptures. He develops his imagery through a process of improvisation and accretion. Beginning from imagination, memories or everyday observation, each element of the dense compositions are a result of conscious and subconscious decisions made during the painting process. The ideas for how the final painting will look arrive and depart over many configurations. In this way he allows for the piece to come to life fluidly, similar to Surrealist automatism. The resulting images are then a reflection of the way our thoughts are randomly changing, with one idea inevitably triggering another, and a single image including elements of past, present and future. Over time some themes have emerged, most of them reflating to his interaction with the urban environment. There are blighted industrial landscapes, still life objects found on the streets or in his basement, unkempt interiors and geological phenomenon. This imagery acts as a record or evidence of his experience in the  world. While the individual images, colors and techniques suggest a solvable puzzle, the finished paintings, instead present a vague personal and psychological visual story.

Artist Website + Social Media:
Instagram @jameslstephens

MR/QD Is Made Possible BY

Artists stipends made possible by Kresge Arts in Detroit

For details and more info on making a contribution to Mighty Real/Queer Detroit, please contact us at

About MR/QD

Mighty Real/Queer Detroit is an art exhibition in June 2022 devoted to 77 years (1945-2022) of Detroit LGBTQ+ art 

The exhibition presents a month-long historical examination of the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and its longtime allies, featuring established & emerging Detroit artists, as well as artists whose careers were shortened by HIV/AIDS.

Mighty Real/Queer Detroit is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to promoting positive and meaningful images of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through artistic and intellectual means. © 2023. All Rights Reserved.