Starting our year thoughtfully with artist Jerri Stephanis
If These Walls Could Talk – Jerri Stephanis
12 x 12″ Plaster, steel, wood, and corrugated cardboard
As we enter the new year, all of us at Utile are taking some time to reflect on the progress we’ve made toward creating a more just built environment and design community, while recognizing that much progress remains to be made. Artist and designer Jerri Stephanis has created this interpretation of our logo to help us consider the ways in which this progress is not linear, but rather a process that can be slow and cyclical, involving making and unmaking, doing and undoing, and must be built on community and trust. Thank you, Jerri, for this beautiful piece and for helping to guide our reflection!
Statement from the Artist
The last two years in the US have been a time of reckoning. A time where as a country, we have been compelled to take a hard look at our individual biases, our policies, and our history. We stand on ground that was built on white supremacy and traditions of segregation. Structural inequality has been embedded into our legal system and government policy. The built environment bears witness to this history and every decision it took to get us where we are today.
If These Walls Could Talk is about acknowledging the scars that exist in the urban fabric. The walls that make up our cities tell stories of histories that have come and gone. The built environment shapes who we are and the stories we tell about ourselves, others, and our communities. I believe that without context, we are shapeless. How we surround ourselves informs how we feel about ourselves and others.
So what are the stories that have been embedded within the walls that surround us? Are they stories of hope? joy? struggle? pain? hatred love? And more importantly, how do we define ourselves through these stories? It is important as we enter this new year, to reflect on the narratives that we believe about ourselves and others and acknowledge where these narratives come from.
Hi! My name is Jerri. I am a first generation Latina artist and designer who presently practices Architecture in St. Pete, FL. I grew up in Santiago, Chile and moved to the States when I was 10 years old. Influenced by my dad’s carpentry and my mom’s involvement in church theater, I became interested in the power of storytelling from a young age.
I received my BA in Literature and went on to get a MA in Architecture from the University of South Florida. In architecture school I became fascinated by the relationship between literature and architecture. I realized that in the same way a story has a structure, hierarchy, rhythm, and progression, a building too, needs all these elements to make our spatial experience more meaningful. I found this connecting thread to be true not just with architecture but with art and design as well.
One of my favorite ways to tell stories is through collaging and composition. I think as humans we understand things based on contrast. We know to define darkness by the absence of light, or cold by the absence of heat. A collage inherently tells a story through contrast because it comes from an assemblage of distinct forms. These forms come together to create a whole and a new narrative about how the pieces fit together.