Contemporary realism - Stephanie Buer, Untitled (Snow), 2021, charcoal on paper, 42 x 56 in., private collection
Stephanie Buer, Untitled (Snow), 2021, charcoal on paper, 42 x 56 in., private collection

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

Some artists do their best work indoors, where still lifes, florals, interior scenes, and other subjects come to fruition in the comfort of their own studios. But Stephanie Buer (b. 1982) thrives on the unpredictability of being outdoors — observing the evolving light, elements, environment, and architectural structures on any given day or season, then creating a heartfelt interpretation of what she saw and felt in that moment.

Buer grew up in rural Michigan, but when she moved to Detroit to earn a B.F.A. from the College for Creative Studies, she embraced the idiosyncratic beauty of urban life with all its colorful sights, sounds, and textures. “I lived in Detroit for 10 years, so that city is quite special to me,” she says. “I initially struggled to adapt to urban living after being in the countryside my whole life, so I took to wandering the streets and exploring old, abandoned buildings. I ended up falling in love with these beautiful, peaceful, marginal spaces. The relationship to Detroit completely shaped my aesthetic and conceptual language as an artist.”

More recently, during the pandemic, Buer decided to move once again, this time to Vancouver to pursue an M.F.A. at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Being highly sensitive to her surroundings, she once again has used art as a therapeutic way to embrace and connect with a new environment. “I moved to Canada during the depths of the pandemic,” Buer explains. “It was a very difficult time to be in a new place. I found the entire experience generative, though, as I had a lot of time to wander the landscape and become better acquainted with it through the slow, meditative process of drawing and painting.”

One of the pieces that resulted from that time is Untitled (Snow), the charcoal drawing illustrated above. Buer couldn’t have picked a better medium to convey the heavy, gray silence and solitude of a stark winter’s day. In this scene, we feel the familiar forlornness that winter often brings, while also detecting a bit of the loneliness, even sadness, the artist likely felt during this new season of her life. It’s a dramatic piece that instantly transports viewers to a specific time and place while connecting us to the emotional state of the person who created it.

This article was originally published in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine (subscribe here).