The Stafford family has always shared an interest in art. Whether it was family vacation in Paris wandering through The Louvre, where young daughters Erin and Elissa curiously inspected “Sleeping Hermaphroditus,” the stunning marble sculpture dating back to first century B.C., or a weekend visit to the Fort Worth Contemporary to see Jasper Johns’ optical illusion painting, “Flag,” Ed Stafford created a sense of wonder through art in his immediate family. Dragging the family around from one gallery to the next made an impression on his little girls.
“We learned earlier on not to assume. Dad slowed us down and showed us there are things to admire,” says Erin Stafford, now an art instructor at Texas State University/San Marcos and the San Antonio Art Institute.
Erin will join her sister Elissa and Dad Ed in a family showing of their collective art works at Red Arrow Contemporary, a new Dallas art venue opened by Ed to showcase leading edge art.
“Art has been something our family has shared a common interest in for over 25 years now,” says Elissa Stafford. “And, as close as we’ve been, it’s interesting to see how each person has taken off in their own unique, individual direction.”
It’s All Relative, May 12–June 16, shows a cooperative individualism with works on display ranging in media from oil painting, to printmaking and photography. The underlying commonality among the artists is sex or sexual provocation. The dualities of refinement juxtaposed with the subversive are ideas explored through Erin’s oil paintings. Women are caught in-between these two identities — being the well-mannered woman while balancing hidden carnal desires.
“I am inspired by Rococo ideals, playing it safe while being subtly sexual,” says Erin. “The subtle area of sexuality and acceptability finding the balance between the two notions is a major inspiration. ‘Where do I fit in as a woman?’ is what informs my work. That is what connects my work and my sister’s.
The rich oil works show the symbolic pearl necklace, wet, swimming in a bath of Vaseline — inspire thoughts of a lovers passion being met after a long separation. The desire hot, bubbling to the surface and suspended in the ecstasy of the moment, which extends for the life of the painting. It’s an oil painting; it’s going to be awhile. There is a real sense of longing and decadence you feel while viewing Erin’s work.
Originally, sister Elissa only dabbled in being an artist.
“I was going to be a gymnast, a writer, and then a fashion designer; art wasn’t something I thought I could ever do” recalled the Texas native. “I did small collages, but didn’t do anything seriously until sophomore year in college. As a fashion major, I had to take a printmaking class and fell in love.” Her family always thought she would be writer and in many ways this narrative passion continues in her art practice.
Elissa posted ads on Craigslist for volunteers who had secrets they would be willing to share for an art project. The volunteers were required to be completely anonymous, no fame whores need reply. All the subjects must be photographed while having their identity hidden by hoods crafted by Elissa worn over their head. A writer at heart, Elissa accompanies each photograph with an essay revealing the volunteers secret.
“The Panty Sniffer,” a photograph of what looks like a man, in a yellow hood with an adorable screen printed face, has a pair a black, lace panties secured around the front of the hood, directly underneath his nose. The photograph has a sense of unending happiness in both gesture and perspective. The secret is subversive but the subject appears more innocent and joyful. The hoods give nod to the folly of childhood while the reality of what is underneath — the humanity, this subversive kink found on Craigslist and albeit everywhere — gives the work intrigue in knowing an unknown thing.
“It’s been interesting seeing each person’s evolution first hand,” says Ed of his daughters. “Watching them develop into full fledged talents has been an inspiring and amazing thing.”
Ed brought both of these young women into the world and the apples didn’t fall far from the tree. His contribution is laced with sexual desire and endless love. The female form is explored through Ed’s drawings. He doesn’t just draw any female, wife Denise has been the main source of inspiration and continues to be the form from which his mind draws.
“If I am just drawing, it always becomes her,” says Ed with a sparkle in his eye. While his wife is definitely his muse behind his nude drawings, Minimalism, Realism and abstraction are the stylistic inspiration reflected in his work.
— RACHEL VAN HORN
Red Arrow Contemporary presents It’s All Relative opening May 12 with a public reception 6–8 p.m. The gallery is located at 1130 Dragon Street, Suite 110, Dallas. www.redarrowcontemporary.com.