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Artist of the Month - June 2002

Rebecca Stengel - Sterling Scholar
in the Visual Arts

by Sydney Francis

I have known Becky Stengel for several years. She has always been the ideal teenager: mature, polite, articulate, sensitive and good-natured. But as she is on the eve of heading off to the University of Arizona, Tucson, for her first year of college, Stengel is also a woman (and artist) of accomplishment. This year, Stengel received the Sterling Scholar Award in the Visual Arts. The Sterling Scholar Award is regional competition between seven high schools. Awards are given in different categories, yet competitors are judged on their strengths in multiple areas, including their G.P.A.’s, and their extra curricular activities. Stengel also recently lead her class at graduation as one of the valedictorians for Grand County High School this May.

As a young artist, Stengel won one of 20 awards in the Utah All-State Art Competition, which had 800 entries. The submission hung in the Springville Art Museum on display with her award. Stengel has also had several art shows and exhibits. In April, she showed a collection of her paintings at Moonflower Market with friend and artist, Louise Seiler. She has also exhibited her artwork at The Rock, a former local gallery, and at the Dan O’Laurie Museum.

Stephen Hawking by Rebecca StengelFrida Kahlo by Rebecca StengelStengel has drawn all her life, but has just begun painting in the last 3 years. She prefers oil and watercolor to acrylic, as she finds it easier to work with the pigment and achieve desired effect in these media. It is obvious looking at a collection of Stengel’s work that she has a passion for color. In her images she plays with complimentary colors to create optical illusion. She also experiments with creating harmony and continuity through her color use. Take, for example, her three-portrait mural, which is currently hanging in the GCHS Library, depicting historical figures from different disciplines, from the right sits Steven Hawking, a cosmologist, Frida Kahlo, an artist, and Walt Whitman, a poet. The colors provide continuity between the three distinct portraits. The softly blended mauve background - a painting of a black hole - behind Steven Hawking plays off of the right-most Frida’s dress. Then the background colors of Walt Whitman in bright yellow and orange are also continued into the background of the Frida Kahlo piece. Stengel’s use of color ties these separate images together. The rhythms of the backgrounds play off one another, as well. The smooth waves of the Hawking background appear to flow into Kahlo¹s chaos. Then as your eye continues to move to the right, the complex movement of the Kahlo sky emerges as ordered and stylized behind Whitman. It is remarkable how three such distinct images could be harmoniously balanced in this way.

Iris by Rebecca StengelStengel’s favorite subject for painting is portraiture. She is intrigued with the challenge of recreating a likeness of the human subject. But I think she is also compelled to capture something of the psychological reality of the subject. Intuitively perhaps, she uses color and detail to represent the depth and mood of what she is seeing. Her portraits are not flat, technical recreations of the image, but rather a sense of personality and feeling is indicated in her execution of a portrait. In her Iris watercolor, ink and oil painting she uses a palette of earth tones: alzarin crimson, sap green, yellow ochre, and prussian blue. The crimson and green are the predominant colors in the composition. She has poignantly positioned these two compliments against one another creating a vibrant play of color on the page. The prussian blue and yellow ochre are used as accents giving a sense of light and shadow and grabbing the viewers attention with places of dense color saturation. The eye wanders through this painting from one pleasing color combination to the next. This is an example of how Stengel has captured a mood with color: the colors are dark and heavy (not generally associated with the delicate iris) but her deliberate use of color has allowed this piece to be bold, strong, and confident.

Stengel is off to college in the fall. She said she is looking toward a degree in the field of integrative medicine. Of course, I plugged heavily for the visual arts. But I imagine that painting, portraiture, her keen sense of color, and her fascination with people will remain a gift of Stengl’s her entire life; and, therefore, we need not worry (too much) if she wanders off into the sciences. And, no doubt, she will continue to be a woman of accomplishment in whatever profession she chooses.

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