Stephen Proski is an artist from Kansas City, Missouri who focuses on the underrepresentation of disabled individuals in the art world. Partially blind and colorblind since birth, Proski views disability as a creative force. His stitched narrative tableaus explore “the uncertainty around us.” Using pulsating colors and forms, and influenced by cartoons, he employs elements of collage and quilt-making in his wry and arresting work.
Since earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Creative Writing at the Kansas City Art Institute in 2010, Proski has worked for the non-profit studio, Imagine That, which supports adults with developmental disabilities. He has exhibited his work on a national and international level, and created a commissioned work for the Kansas City Museum. After years of helping other disabled artists find their own voice, he’s starting an MFA program at Boston University in the fall.
With subject matter that ranges from COVID-related quarantine, to jazz bands, poison, myopia, and swamps, Proski’s collages have a probing irony that straddles the line between darkness and levity. Drawn to the “chaos and absurdity of cartoons,” he weaves cultural references with personal symbolism to confront haunting moments from the past. His technique of dissecting his compositions and stitching them together in jarring arrangements, and his use of objects, people, animals and nature in his visual narratives, combines a touch of Pop Art with elements of primitivism and surrealism.
After growing up in a society that stigmatized disability, Proski finds himself at a pivotal moment in history where individual identity is celebrated. Years of struggling to fit in within a ‘normalizing’ framework have forced him to become an advocate for himself and others. His offbeat compositions, intense colors, and obsession with parody and gags, give his work a biting but whimsical edge.
I am entrenched in a normalizing framework which treats my disability as an obstacle rather than an asset to my artistic identity. Diversity has been the source of innovative ideas and creative accomplishments throughout history into the present. – Stephen Proski
Table of Contents
Stephen Proski – Artist Statement
As an artist dealing with degenerative vision loss, I explore the complexities of sightlessness in a sight-driven world. Squinting through the clutter and clamor of reality, my paintings reflect the whimsy and absurdity of our post cultural landscape. Blurring together elements of both collage and quilt making, I use paint and thread as a vehicle to mimic the chaos of everyday life. Stitching together by hand, narratives of the present while referencing the past.
I find myself moving more towards the representational, but I don’t want to completely abandon abstraction. I want to forge a path between the two by creating compelling narratives that reflect the uncertainty that surrounds us: through objects, people, animals and nature, relationships, and emotions. Using pastiche and parody as defense mechanisms to break down the seriousness of painting’s history, while simultaneously expressing devotion for the medium.
Influenced by the chaos occurring in cartoons – a limitless universe without precaution or repercussion – I find logic in punchlines. Gags such as anvils dropping, painted faux tunnels, and exploding pianos inform my decision making when it comes to making a gesture. Dismal yet all at once humorous, my subject matter stems from past/present moments that haunt and eat away at me, producing a series of conundrums that writhe on the brink of a painterly language blurring together elements of both collage and quilt making. Compositions are cut into pieces and sewn back together by hand to create remixed arrangements. Resounding amplified lullabies under a blanket of distortion.
2021 Grant Submission Works
Stephen Proski – Bio
Stephen Proski (b. 1988) currently lives and works in Kansas City, Missouri. He received his BFA in Painting and Creative Writing from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2010. He works at a non-profit art studio supporting adults with developmental disabilities.
His work is concerned with disability as a creative source. He was born partially blind and colorblind. His work has been shown nationally and internationally, with exhibitions spanning Chicago, New York, and Russia. Recently, he was commissioned to create a permanent installation for the Kansas City Museum. His eyes can’t be fixed.
Stephen Proski – On the Web And Social Media
Here’s where to find out more about Stephen Proski on the web sand social media:
About the Artist of the Day Series
All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.