Stephanie Jones Rubiano is a native Austinite who graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M at Galveston with a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology. She worked as an environmental scientist for a major drilling company in Houston, TX, for five years after that. Therefore, it stands to reason that she has now chosen art as her career path. She is a mixed media artist who creates dimensional works within shadow boxes using a variety of uncommon objects. Her love of nature and fascination with Victorian photography is apparent through her combination of antique photographs and real butterfly or moth wings. Bits of text illustrate her irreverence for straight-laced Victorian society and lend a whimsical air to her pieces.
Stephanie teaches workshops at national art retreats as well as in her home studio. She has had Butterfly Boxes and work in past mediums shown in galleries and boutiques across the United States. In October of 2008 she participated in her first nationally-ranked art festival, the Bayou City Art Festival in Houston, TX, and placed 2nd overall out of 300 national artists. Her work has graced the covers of magazines and books, as well as been the subject of articles and how-to projects. Stephanie lives with her daughter, husband, two cats and a variety of backyard critters in Austin, TX.
About the Process
I spend a lot of time (and money!) collecting antique photographs. Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, cabinet cards, cdv’s and tintypes fill the drawers and shelves in my studio room. The clothing, the settings and the expressions in these images all serve to inspire me. I make color copies of favorites and adhere them to 1/8” birch plywood. The main reason I don’t use original photographs is a size issue. Many of these older images are very small. I then cut the mounted images out by hand using a jeweler’s saw. This type of saw allows me to make very fine and detailed cuts. After sanding all of the edges, I search through old (already broken down) books to find text to make up appropriate (or maybe not so appropriate!) phrases and adhere them to the image. I like to keep the text small in order to draw the viewer in so that they may examine the piece more carefully. I hand-cut crowns, wands and other accessories from vintage candy, tobacco and medicine tins. These accessories are attached by hand-drilling holes in the metal and wood and securing with miniature nuts and bolts.Yes, the wings are real! I purchase them from a reputable supplier whose company only collects from sustainable populations. They supply dried insects to museums, teaching institutions, collectors and other artists. In fact, in many cases, they have people in certain areas raise the caterpillars and butterflies. This provides the people with an income so that they don’t clear-cut the rainforest for farming. The wings are adhered to the mounted image and carefully placed in the shadow box.
All of the documents are originals and date back to the mid-1800’s through the early 1900’s. I feel these old papers are works of art in themselves with their wonderful graphics, copperplate handwriting and advertising content.
They have been treated to make them acid-free and ensure long life in my work. I am a pack rat at heart and love to collect odds and ends that appeal to my personal aesthetic. Many of these items are inspirational and end up in my boxes! Mothball packets are stashed behind the mounted image and the box is sealed because there are quite a few critters that enjoy munching on the chitinous material that makes up the wings.Each one-of-a-kind piece is signed and dated by me and the scientific name of the butterfly or moth is written on the back of the box to satisfy my inner science geek and encourage the owner of the artwork to find out more about that particular insect. I feel that by using these photographs, documents and other objects, I can breathe new life into these memories and release them from their prisons of dusty drawers and boxes so that you may enjoy them for years to come!