The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday October 25th


Q&A with MFA student artist Lile Stephens

Lile Stephens discovered he had a knack for art while growing up in a small town in Arkansas. After high school, he completed his bachelors degree in fine arts and masters in studio art at Arkansas State University, and now studies at UNC in the two-year Master of Fine Arts program.

Stephens will showcase his art and video installation in the John and June Allcott Gallery in Hanes Art Center as a part of a nine-week exhibition series for second-year MFA students entitled “Aesthetic Conditions.” His exhibit will run until February 14.

Staff writer Rupali Srivastava spoke with Stephens about his current work, experience as an MFA student at UNC and his future plans.

The Daily Tar Heel: How did you get started as an artist?

Lile Stephens: I’ve always drawn and I knew I wanted to do something in the arts. By the time I was finishing high school, I was interested in comic books, but I wasn’t all that ambitious. I got a scholarship to Arkansas State and started out undecided. Then, I had graphic design as a major for a couple years. At a certain point, I realized that this was using my artistic talent to create imagery and products for a client, and I was able to make some decisions but I would not have full creative freedom. I was also in this introductory sculpture class, and that led me to the contemporary art world. The gears just started turning, and I really decided at that point that I wanted to be a fine artist and get a degree in Studio Art.

DTH: So, tell me about the kind of art you do here at UNC.

LS: I did my BFA at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark., with an emphasis on sculpture. Through that, I was introduced to video art and installations and alternate forms of display that are uniquely different. I started experimenting with that and started using technology and the way I use it. I kind of have that science fiction or speculative fiction aesthetic. These materials I use are “obsolete.” They’re not desired anymore, but they still have functions if we just think about alternate ways of using them. I try not to use the materials I’m using in the way they were intended and trying to create parallel uses for them that takes advantages of that device’s capabilities.

DTH: And what can we expect to see in your exhibit this week?

LS: In this current show, I’m using basically old television tubes, and I’m enjoying the low definition effects in this world of HD and retina display. I’m also using four old computers as media players that play video and sound and as a power source, as a hub for some of the other smaller electronics I’m working with. I have it all networked together and connected and running off of each other.

There’s lots of flashing lights, a lot of moving things, sound, and a lot of moving images. There’s also some levitating figures on parachutes. So hopefully people interested will be interested and come out. It’s a weird, crazy, techno universe in that space.

DTH: What do you plan to do with you MFA degree?

LS: Well, once I decided to get a degree in studio art, I wondered, you know, “What can I do with this degree?” And a professor mentioned to me that I could get an MFA and teach. So in about 2003, I made a conscious decision that I wanted to be an art educator at an institution for higher learning. I’m now just a few months away from attaining that goal.

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