By: Gail Obenreder
“During periods of sadness . . . painting these happy figures helped revive me. That is why it’s my mission and passion to allow those smiles to impact others as well.”
Since she was 18, Emerging Artist Fellow Stephanie Boateng has owned a business selling prints, originals, and stickers of her art. Now the recent University of Delaware grad and Newark resident is beginning her career as a professional artist, hoping to share the joy she feels when making her work. “My portraits are very emotional beings,” created to be “an experience of happiness, love, and beauty” both for herself and her viewers.
Always interested in drawing and performing, Boateng grew up in Williamstown, New Jersey, where her parents moved from Ghana. As a high school sophomore, she took an introductory art class, where a portrait project sparked a passion for painting. The encouraging teachers there were the painter’s first artistic inspiration: Believing in her work, they moved her directly into an advanced placement studio class and “encouraged me to try new things, add new colors, break out of my shell.”
Boateng is inspired by Black artists, stylists, photographers, and influencers, especially by Alyssa Silos, whose social media following and flourishing world-wide art career led Boateng to begin her business and venture into the 3-D portraits that garnered her Fellowship. The addition of flowers, rhinestones, papier mache, aluminum cans, and a myriad of other objects allows Boateng’s vivid, smiling, and sometimes larger-than-life portraits to move off the canvas.
“The 3-D elements in my work are so important because I want the artwork to truly speak to the viewer and allow them to interact with it in a very personal way.” But making actual objects cohesive with a painted canvas creates challenges. “As my paintings get bigger, I know the 3D pieces are going to get more difficult, but I’m excited for all of the new milestones.”
Her work is grounded in a deep passion for connecting with people. Boateng is especially delighted when her paintings are appreciated on an emotional level and people are enlivened by the contagious joy they see. That’s the purpose of her art. “I am always so grateful to be able to share a smile with others. Many people don’t understand just how powerful it is. Sharing a smile could brighten up someone’s day or even someone’s life.”
As well as painting, Boateng loves to bake and cook and has an affinity for ceramics, and at UD (where she studied anatomy) she built a life-sized human sculpture. “As long as I’m creating, I’m happy.”
The pandemic has both enhanced and hindered her artistic practice. 3-D elements are important in her work because they “break that third wall,” something that happens only person-to-person, not via an image on a screen. “My art is really different when you get to see it face to face.” But the enforced hiatus did allow her to work woth more concentration and create this body of work.
“Happy and blessed to be granted something like this,” the young artist is “really, really, really excited” about her award. It will allow her to share her work – foundational to her artistic development – and purchase supplies to innovate. Boateng dreams of owning a communty art center, teaching others – as she was taught – how creativity can enrich life. Exploring the power of healing via art therapy is a priority, now a clearer path. “I feel as though the state of Delaware has my back, and I hope to give back to the Delaware community with this opportunity.”
Related Topics: art, artist fellowship, arts fellowship, arts grants, delaware division of the arts, Division of the Arts, emerging artist, grants, grants for artists, individual artist fellow, individual artist fellowship, painter, painting, visual arts