Born in the Mexican border town of Yuma, Arizona, Gary Stephens arrived in South Africa in 2008.
He studied painting and drawing at the University of Arizona and the San Francisco Art Instiutute.
For the past thirty years, he has worked as an artist and traveled extensively in Latin America, Asia, Europe, and now Africa for inspiration. Before moving to South Africa, he lived and worked in Florence, Italy for nine years and refined his current drawing style. In 2009, he did a year long residency at Greatmore Studios in Cape Town. His work is in public and private collections in the US, Europe and the Middle East.
Gary Stephens large-scale charcoal drawings pay homage to the traditions of braided hair and urban style in South Africa. By capturing an ornate braid pattern or a particular angle of a hat viewed from behind, Stephens monumental portraits focus on iconic strengths of his models instead of their personal features.
His meticulous technic of drawing in vertacle stripes, pleating the paper, and using string screens gives the images a subtle visual vibration and vitality. The portraits seem to shift or dance when viewed from various angles as if capturing a slight movement or breeze instead of being solid or static.
Stephens transforms the every day people of his South African life into sublimely beautiful beings radiating an almost mythological sense of Italian classical light. He strives to reflect back the sense of joy he experiences living among a new culture and finding beauty in the people he meets.