Stephanie Bachiero’s process is more laborious than the elegant abstract sculptures lead on to; built out of porcelain, a material not easily manipulated, Bachiero works with, but mostly against the clay. That struggle is apparent in the twisting and turning, pushing and pulling, expanding and contracting, and bending and shaping in each work’s composition. The tension between control and lack thereof stems
from a personal experience of Bachiero’s, while in college she suffered an aneurysm, series of strokes, and multiple open brain surgeries due to a fall, she later underwent intensive rehabilitation to restore physical coordination and verbal expression. Her studio practice both narrates that experience as well as contributes to her recovery; exploring fragility, structure, beauty, and conflict.
Following the spread of the Minimalism movement in the 1960’s, its terminology has been applied across numerous practices, leading to an inevitable obscurity that some contemporary artists are willing to scrutinize. Minimally Speaking (on view at Bentley Gallery through March) highlights six such artists whose counteractions and homages challenge mid-century ideals. Their works – while aesthetically spare and modern – allude to traces of personal inspiration, rendering contemporary blends of Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism.
Stephanie Bachiero manipulates and twists porcelain clay to create abstract forms. Porcelain is a temperamental medium, difficult to work with and demanding more patience than clay. Twisting and turning, her graceful pieces have the deceptive appearance of weightlessness. Her sculptures ground themselves through components of negative space and solid architectural structure.
Bachiero experienced a stroke at a young age, and the dialogue between the physical material of her artwork and her own body brought stability and structure to her work and her recovery.
“The pieces reflect my need for control, order and to connect with my environment,” Bachiero says. Porcelain is a slow-drying medium that she describes as one with a mind of its own. The process involves rolling it out with a rolling pin and shaping it into the desired form, standing up or laying down, with a curve curling upward or perhaps bridging space. But, given that the stuff takes eons to dry, it will sag and form itself per laws of gravity rather than Bachiero’s will. Until a piece is dry enough to be fired, she must practically babysit it to keep it in line. “It’s a frustrating process at times, but that too helps me establish control over the piece and, by extension, over my own abilities,” she says.
“Stephanie belongs to a younger generation of artists who, looking back at the 1960s and ’70s, are inspired by minimalism and the Finish Fetish movement,” says Grace Kook-Anderson, curator of contemporary art at Laguna Art Museum. “She chose a hard-to-control medium that reflects the challenges she has had to face in her life, but she also brings intellectuality, a sense of playfulness and sensuality into her work.”
Bachiero received a bachelor of arts in communication and fine arts from Boston College.