My Story

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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. In 2019, I turned 30 years old, and I finally decided a decade of time down all the wrong paths was time enough. I quit my job in the nuclear power business, returned to university to study fine arts, made an indie 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. In the era of young adulthood, I was exposed to the awful details and autopsies of murder and assault cases and worked on a murder case that made national news and people now make podcasts discussing. This was one of the worst periods of my life and I suffered greatly from severe depression, but 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. After long days at the office, I taught myself how to paint with acrylics, 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 own escape was made from the law office.

I began at outdoor art festivals, tramping across sand and earth with my sweet Grandma Letty – always my number one art supporter – in tow. The outdoor shows weren’t a success, but I kept painting the nearby landscapes and sunsets while working at a tree nursery. 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 morphed 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 a barren underworld. 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.

When I turned 30, I needed a drastic change 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 have run my own studio ever since. I transferred to PennWest CalU and and completed my degree Bachelor’s Decree of Fine Arts, graduating in the spring of 2022. (During this time, I also co-wrote and co-directed an indie feature film with my brother, as The Oplinger Siblings.) 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 elevating, fulfilling, 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.