Stephanie Oplinger is an award winning multi-disciplinary artist from western Pennsylvania. Working in painting, printmaking and sculpture, she endeavors to share the narratives and dreamy landscapes of her imagination, celebrate the beauty of feminine power and voice, and advocate for those repressed in contemporary society.
She enjoys working in a surrealistic style, combining the fantastical with the familiar. Her printmaking work most often explores the strains of moral expectation in society on women and the celebration of feminine strength. Her dreamy paintings often harken to the Pre-Raphaelites and incorporate imagery of the human figure interacting with nature and the universe. Her sculptures are made from recycled and unconventional materials into a wearable form.
Believing that art can be an avenue for social change, she develops work raising awareness about human trafficking, commenting on female body expectations and dysmorphia in society, and the importance of caring for our earth and environments.
She is a juried member of the Pittsburgh Print Group, and her work is part of the permanent Special Art Collection at Greater Latrobe SHS.
My path into the arts was not a direct one, but rather a winding path through many barren and strange lands. I was a struggling self taught artist for a decade as I worked one unfulfilling – and sometimes downright scary – job after another. Three years ago, I turned 30 years old, and I finally decided enough was enough, time a decade of time down all the wrong paths was time enough I quit my job, returned to university to study fine arts, made a feature film with my brother, and leased a studio space to run a business as a visual artist.
As I suppose most young people do, I graduated high school without a clue how to purse my dreams: career in film and the visual arts. I listened to the urging of others and studied law, becoming a paralegal. At the wild age of young adulthood, I was exposed to the awful details and autopsies of murder and assault cases and learned of the horrors that went on in my own town, under our very noses. This was one of the worst periods of my life, suffering from severe depression, and this had a profound effect on my work. Unable to cope with an unjust world, I set out to raise a voice for justice through my art. I created several creative projects on social justice topics, such as my Art for Charity project and Human Tableau Project, to raise awareness and advocacy for the victims and survivors of human trafficking. Alongside writing law memorandums and after work, I was writing and painting, and I taught myself how to paint with acrylics and canvas, beginning with portraits of women and closeups of colorful flowers. And slowly, art become my escape and my solace, to express the un-expressible and to dream of different places and different worlds, until my escape was made from the law office.
I began showing at outdoor art festivals, tramping across sand and earth with my Grandma Letty – my number one art supporter – in tow. The outdoor shows weren’t a success, but I kept painting while working for a tree grower in a plant nursery. I painted those very trees and plants, the nearby landscapes and sunsets. But it wasn’t until I was crawling through hot, tiny spaces full of nuclear contamination in nuclear power plants to inspect pipes in my next job, that my art morf into my signature imagery. To go from a job in the outdoors to a plant of darkness and concrete and heat and danger felt like I walked into hell. Indeed, above the elevator doors that descended into one plant, someone scribbled the Dante quote in sharpie, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” I found hope in my imagination, dreaming of stars, nature, the human struggle within, and the unabandoned hope that the divine is still with us.
In 2019, when I turned 30 and decided that more than a decade of a “real career” was enough, I enrolled in courses at the local community college, and soon after I met Kathy Dlugos, my teacher and mentor who pushed me on the right path in to the arts. The pandemic hit during my studies, but a new gallery opened up in my city near me: Green Beacon Gallery. I rented one of their studios before they even officially opened, and I began to learn how to run my own studio. I transferred to CalU and to complete my degree Bachelor’s Decree of Fine Arts, graduating in the spring of 2022. While at CalU, took out extra loans and filmed a feature film with my brother, as The Oplinger Siblings. And I continue to run my art business under Stephanie Oplinger Arts out of my studio above Green Beacon Gallery.
Bring your imagination and stay awhile.
It has been a wild journey, often harrowing and disappointing, but recently elating, hopeful, and even at times sublime. I am often asked why I create, and I often do not have the words to describe the uncontrollable force of it, the need to create, a tempest commanding the action and the sickness when going without creating. At last, I have accepted that creating is the only thing that makes me feel happy and fulfilled. I am an Artist. Why try to be anything else? Accepting that bravely to start over and chase my purpose and my dream. And you are now a part of this journey with me, witnessing and supporting and boosting and cheering. I couldn’t have done it without you. I have so much more to bring you and show you that I have created. Keep with me, and I promise there will be more. And I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Bring your imagination and stay awhile.
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