Nationally acclaimed American public sculptor Aaron T Stephan lives and works in Portland, Maine. His work presents a wry look at the world around him – focusing on the complex web of information carried by everyday materials and objects. Stephan has completed over 25 major public works in municipal spaces throughout the United States.
A graduate of Maine College of Art and SUNY New Paltz, his work is noted for his diverse approach to form spanning from a life-sized orchestra of plastic snap-to parts, gestural streetlights, and gracefully curved ladders reminiscent of DNA. Stephan’s public works can be found in the collections of cities across the nation including San Diego (California), Salt Lake City (Utah), Clearwater (Florida), Arvada (Colorado), Nashville (Tennessee), and Lubbock (Texas) among many others.
Are sculptures a good investment?
For me, art’s value is above and beyond a dollar amount. It expands our thought, explores taboo subjects, opens the mind to different viewpoints, makes daily life more enjoyable, is an emotional stimulant, and can open the door to worlds beyond our own. So, yes, art is always a good investment.
With how many clients do you work with on a regular basis?
I am usually working on 10 or so projects at one time. This includes commissions, exhibits, performances, and general studio explorations.
How do you deliver your large sculptures to clients?
This is different for each project. Mostly in parts that get assembled onsite.
How long did it take for you to achieve financial success as a sculptor?
I worked for something like 15 years as a building contractor before I became a full-time artist. And even now, it’s still a hustle patching together schedules and projects to make everything work.
What risks and setbacks did you have to face in your art career?
There are always challenges. There have been withdrawn funds and canceled projects, ideas that get watered down through committees, poorly run funding campaigns, unexpected political shifts, pandemics, and bad weather. At this point, I expect the unexpected and understand these things are all part of any successful career.
What sacrifices did you have to make to become a successful sculptor?
There are certainly a lot of sacrifices for any artist. Financial security is one. But, more importantly, it takes a certain amount of constant openness and sensitivity to be an artist – and there’s an inherent precarity in this.
What advice would you give to new artists that wish to become professional sculptors?
Be open minded. Be aware.
Outside of sculpting, what types of art do you like to surround yourself with?
I listen to music all the time – it feeds everything that I do.
Do NFTs interest you as an artist?
Not really. This is simply another way to monetize artwork – but it’s often treated as another way to make artwork. In addition, I find it to be a very limiting format. It might be a good way to distribute digital art – but as a sculptor, its seems relatively useless.
How has COVID impacted your business and what changes, if any, did you have to make?
The biggest impact has been on scheduling and supply chains. Everything on my schedule seems to be shifting daily since the beginning of COVID and the volatility of prices has made it very difficult to predict costs. I have had to become much more flexible during the pandemic.
What is your overall outlook on how the art market is changing and developing?
Things always ebb and flow in the art market. Within the past few years, everything seems to be shifting away from the middle ground. In other words; the really high-end market is thriving and the lower-end, smaller scrappy spaces are doing well. I think this is a reflection of the larger economy.
Who are your favorite sculptors and why?
This changes every day! Today, I’m very interested in Alicja Kwade, Katinka Bock, Analia Saban, and Richard Jackson
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