Shame To Pride

By: Stephanie Calvert

Wellness , Artist

It takes courage and love to present our imperfect and authentic selves to the world, but it is truly the only way to connect with others.  I hope this project inspires everyone to rethink how they might be able to turn any shame, guilt, sadness or anger they might feel about themselves or their upbringing. This is my story:

For years, I didn't face my past. I was really ashamed of how I grew up.  When I was 11, my parents moved our family to an abandoned school building in rural Colorado. I lived there for 6 years, without plumbing, central heat, or full electricity. In the isolation of the prarie, my parent's hoarding tendencies became fully developed.

Compulsive hoarding is a "disressing and debilitating pyschological condition" characterized by the inability to dispose of excess or unused things. It is estimated that in the United States, approximately 15-million people (or 3-5% of the population) suffer from hoarding disorder. Beyond a lack of functional living space, I also grew up with the anger, resentment and depression that is commonly associated with hoarding

I never invited friends over, and I didn't speak to friends about what my home life was like or how I felt about it. At the time I didn't understand what hoarding was. I felt very alone in what I was going through.

Like my siblings, I left for college never expecting to return to that abandoned school house.  But as it always does, life threw us a curve ball when my mother suffered a terrible accident and was left severaly brain-damaged and in need of care. I started taking trips back home to help my father care for my mother.  In revisiting my past, I realized there was much that was unresolved within me that I had been avoiding.

It takes courage to dig into unpleasant memories and expose our wounds to the light, but it's the only way to come to a complete healing.

My Shame to Pride project is a way to process and let go of my negative emotions surrounding my past. It's a way for me to honor my family and find the value in my upbringing. I'm using this project as a way to connect with others, to share in our unique human experiences. I hope to inspire you to share your stories and shed light on what has been kept in the dark.  With this project, my relationship to my artistic process and my self continues to transform in ways I never imagined.

Art can be a very valuable tool for healing, and in transforming the physical objects into works of art, I am transforming my relationship to my story. We have a choice in how we feel and what we think, and actively working towards changing my perspective has been a very valuable experience. 

  • I was born in San Diego, and moved to Colorado when I was 11. I studied Studio Art at Wesleyan University, and moved to NYC after graduating in 2008. I began my Shame to Pride project in the summer of 2014 when I was 26. I started it as a way to facilitate my own healing through art making, as a way to process my past and own my story. I now see Shame to Pride as an opportunity to connect to others, and inspire people to let go of shame and embrace themselves.


The Shame To Pride Story

Dec. 7, 2015

plans for the schoolhouse

Dec. 7, 2015

I would like to continue to clear out the schoolhouse and make art from the materials there, while sharing my art with the public. Eventually I want to get the building to a place where I can use it as an artistic community center. I would love to host events and gatherings there, to use the space as an artist's retreat, and to share the magic of Thatcher with others. This would be a complete 180 from how I felt about the schoolhouse when I was living there. 

As I show my work from this project and share my story, I hope to inspire others to share their vulnerable stories as a path of self-healing and self-acceptance. While our individual stories are particular, others can relate to and understand what we are going through, and this authentic sharing creates a space for others to share as well. I believe this kind of sharing and movement towards self-acceptance can have a ripple effect that reaches far.

in gratitude

Nov. 20, 2015

I've learned that I really need help and support from others to accomplish my goals. I used to very independent, and I felt uncomfortable asking for help. The more I share about what I'm up to, the more support I get and the bigger the impact I can make. 

I would like to thank my family, who has been so supportive and helpful. I'm thankful to my friend Osher for stimulating conversations on art. I would also like to thank Rabbithole Projects in Dumbo for the opportunity to exhibit in their space and Ana Camejo for creating my artist video for Rabbithole Projects.

I've also been learning to ignore the voice of fear in my head. It comes up often, especially when I'm out of my comfort zone. Taking action despite fear is the only way I have managed make this project happen. I make a lot of mistakes along the way, but I think if you're not making mistakes you're probably not up to anything big. 

My Art Exhibit

Nov. 12, 2015

My art exihibit in New York City took place on November 12th.

This piece is entitled, Hosting at My House. It is made of disposable cups, paint, and silicon on wood panel, 48x60"

This piece is entitled Christmas is Cancelled. Made of glass ornaments, resin, paint, and wood, 14x14"

This piece is entitled Drifting, Daydreaming. It is a Triptych with hand-dyed paper, wood, paint, and silicon, approx. 40x72"

You can see all the pieces from my exhibit by visiting my website:

other works

I am fascinated by the way in which extreme conditions in nature can transform one substance into another. As a painter, I am excited to use materials from the earth and witness their transformation into works of art. The physicality and raw elemental quality of oil paint inspires me to explore a process where convincing illusion and pure materiality coexist. I’ve focused on creating paintings of complex mineral forms on large aluminum panels. I render these images with thick, physical paint application. Thus, the contrasts between the illusion, the sensually painted images, and the smooth, cool metal create tension in the work.

The pure physical beauty, range, and variety of colors, forms, and surfaces of gems and minerals leave me in awe. I experience the same mystery and beauty in using paint to evoke those surfaces. Painting minerals with paint made of minerals, on a mineral (aluminum) surface strikes me as both pure and elegant. The media I work with is important, and the painterly interpretation of the materiality of my subjects is critical and challenges me constantly.

I aim to create physical works that are visually lush, but fully engaged in a conceptual approach to painting. Generally, I work from photos I have taken, appreciating the photographic blur and shifting focus as a device for creating a strong sense of space. Recently, however, I have been moving away from my dependence on the photographic image.  I am playing with breaking from the boundaries of the photo, allowing the paint to exist as pure material rather than a representation. My most recent paintings use both representational and pure abstract paint application, while maintaining my on-going exploration of using paint to simulate the varied surfaces of minerals.

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