We had the good fortune of connecting with Steph Lindsey and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Steph, how do you think about risk?
Creativity is risk. I was always a creative kid…that was very precocious…taking apart vcr’s to see how they work kind-of precocious. Luckily my parents found ways to channel that into creative outlets. I was dancing and performing and making art since I can remember. Pursuing a creative life is a risk…you’re not guaranteed the security of a 9-5 job and even when you do have a 9-5 that helps you create stability, there might be a pull or longing to leave it to fill your time creating, making or doing. From yoga to painting to photography for me there has always been a common thread of risk. With yoga the risk shows up internally as an instructor, I am constantly wondering how a cue or pose feels, and whether the intention I set for the class is felt and received. When I’m painting (mostly acrylic pours) risk shows up as decisions, my decision to use or not use a particular color, what the underpainting looks like, when do I stop…if I stop too soon or too late will it hold up or become a muddled mess. In photography risk comes from working outside the technical perimeters of your equipment. In my photo classes, I always tell my students you have to understand the rules of photography in order to break them AND have it look purposeful. I know in my own life risk has at times felt too scary or to outside of the norm….but where I am now thanks in part to the craziness of 2020, I can see the benefits of risking going against the norm. On the other side of risk and fear is typically the thing you were looking for and even when failure shows up on the other side of risk, you still get the lesson, so the next time….you know what NOT to do. 

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I got where I am from pure stubbornness. LOL. I just kept taking a next step. If you look back at the path you’ll definitely see moments and choices that seem confounding, but each of them gave me something I needed to either move ahead or learn something I needed to get where I wanted to go. I left graduate school with two bi-costal exhibitions and a traveling exhibition, so I thought I was all set to soon find gallery representation and truly living off my art work….that didn’t happen and I naturally found myself disappointed. I never stopped creating though, revisiting work I thought was complete and work I hadn’t looked at since I shot it or showed it, the time is what allowed me to see the ways I could grow my art but it also showed me the ways I’ve grown in thinking about what art is. When I didn’t have a curator in my ear about how to exhibit my work, I was able to hear my own intuitive voice (again, thanks yoga). One thing that happens especially as you’re starting out is you kinda get pigeon holed into one type or genre of art. Having time away for exhibiting has allowed me to play with how my work comes together. My yoga practice informs how I create, in that I’m less afraid to mess up. My Yoga practice helps me release the expectation of what something is and live in the moment of creating. That is a freedom that took time to cultivate. And I’m honestly not sure, if I had maintained that path I was on right after grad school, if 1) I’d still be making art or 2) Id be making stuff I’m proud of. There is a freedom that comes when you aren’t in the light of the art world, so you don’t have to fit other peoples expectations of your work. Was it easy…hell no. lol. There were some hard lessons I had to learn about myself. Lessons on boundaries and self worth. Lessons on integrity…I had a grad school professor tell me I wasn’t angry enough as a ‘black artist’. I can infer what he meant at the time, without jumping into the social implications of someone else telling me ‘how to be a black artist’, at the time there were A LOT of black artist that were considered controversial or brash in their work. I was subtle…my work I want you to think about…I want those thoughts to sit with you for a while and in doing that my work could begin to challenge your perspective of what you are looking at. I personally feel the subtlety in my work IS what makes it more impactful. If I’m 100% honest, I just started to overcome it…its been a lot of personal reflection and self work that has allowed me this perspective today….ten years ago I was still struggling on how to ‘get over’ some of the mind stuff or citta vritti, as we say in yoga. Yoga clearly was one way. Yoga really helped me come back to myself after experiencing loss and disappointment. What I’ve learned and continually learn is what others think of me, my work is truly none of MY business. We are all operating from our lived experiences and those opinions people have also come from their lived experiences. My job (and its a continual work in progress) is to recognize that and respond from MY truth. Those lessons I’ve learned are the well from which I create. My yoga classes, my artistic endeavors all come from the place of sharing and honoring the truth of myself and inviting others to do the same

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well I have to give you my pre-Covid list. If you’ll allow me. Long weekend would start with a hike, likely Maxwell Falls since its one of my favorite trails. Then likely to Cochino Tacos for happy hour then a night cap at Bar Helix for their amazeballs chocolate cake (it was really good and I’m really sad Bar Helix closed) Then probably a early Saturday visit to Manitou Springs to hit a hot spring spa and there was an amazing Vietnamese restaurant with the best veggie pho I’ve had (i don’t remember the name of the place though). Then driving back up to Denver stopping at Garden of the Gods. Saturday night I would have found a chill spot to listen to some of my favorite Denver DJ’s Big Styles or DJ MU$A. Sunday brunch at Tupelo Honey then would just walk the alleys along larimer and walnut to take in the Crush Walls….then hit city park for some jazz. While yes this adventure would need to be able to time hop through summer and fall but indulge me 🙂

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Gosh so many people to shout out! My family, through one of the most challenging times we grew stronger together in our love , support and understanding of each other. I have some kickass friends, some who would drag me out of hiding and celebrate all of my small wins to encouraging me to step into my life fully. My friend Kriste began offering yoga classes through her organization, Black and Brown Women’s Alliance Denver, and that became my first regular yoga offering. My friend Amanda gave me a safe place to practice yoga while I was coming out of my ‘lost year’ at Bend and Blaze and now I’m teaching classes with Bend and Blaze. My dear sister circle of friends, some I’ve known since age 6, would meet some of my craziest ideas and say, yes do that, because they could see me light up. We do ourselves a great disservice when we believe the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ lie. There are more people who did one small thing that made a huge impact on my life, I’m constantly aware that while yes my hard work is paying off, but its my hard work and so many helping hands that I’m able to keep pushing towards my dreams and goals.

Website: www.stephaniealindsey.com, www.theblackunicorncollective.com, www.stephlindseyphotography.com
Instagram: @sal_artstudio, @blackunicorncollective, @stephlindsey_photography

Image Credits
Stephanie A. Lindsey

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