By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Stephanie Slack is only 20 years old, but she’s already an accomplished artist with a job at a Southern Pines gallery and her first solo art show coming up this month.
Born and raised in Raeford by her parents, Chuck and Brenda Slack, the young woman took an interest in art at an early age. She attended Fayetteville Christian Academy where she graduated as valedictorian in 2019. Currently she’s attending Sandhills Community College, and recently decided to seek her bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in painting at East Carolina University.
Her love of art started when she was a child. Slack grew up doodling and drawing. Her teachers and fellow classmates at school learned they could come to her with any projects that needed an artist’s talents.
When she was 11, a friend of her family was talking with the owner of an art gallery in Southern Pines and mentioned the young girl’s interest. Frank Pierce, who co-owns Eye Candy Gallery and Framing along with his brother Woody Pierce, agreed to teach her more about art.
“I started taking painting lessons at this gallery in Southern Pines and I’ve been there ever since,” she said.
Her teacher has since become more like an adoptive grandfather to her, and after interning at the gallery while in high school, she was hired on to the staff.
Slack has participated in other shows before, but her upcoming display is a show exclusively for her work. It’s a great opportunity for someone her age, and “a game changer,” she said.
Slack described herself as a more traditional painter who works mostly in oil paints, but has also branched out to watercolors. Her style tends toward realism, drawing from the natural world.
A favorite pastime of watching movies with her father inspired many of her paintings of Western scenes.
“I’ve always loved watching Western movies with my dad. I just got really interested in how the United States was before it was industrialized, before we built these buildings everywhere,” she said.
In more recent years, she’s gravitated toward working from her own photography as a basis for paintings. As a student at Fayetteville Christian Academy, she participated in mission trips, including a two-week mission trip to Botswana during her senior year. While she was there, she took hundreds of photographs and has since painted several works based on those photos.
Working from her own photos means bringing her vision to life from the snap of a shutter to the finished product – “So I have truly original paintings,” she said.
One of the paintings on display for her upcoming art show combines her love of art with another fascination: researching her family history. Slack was curious about where her family came from, and traced her ancestry back to Scotland and Germany. A painting of Scotland’s famous Highland cows, with a walking trail and a tartan scarf in the background, has a personal meaning for her.
“That scarf is actually the MacLeod tartan, which is what my family has grown from, the MacLeod clan in Scotland,” she said.
It was a memento representing her ancestor, Angus MacLeod, who left Scotland in 1802, crossed the Atlantic and arrived in Wilmington.
“That painting to me was him leaving Scotland and heading to America, it’s really special to me,” she said.
Another of Slack’s paintings visitors can view during the upcoming art show is a master study of the artist Charles Vickery, depicting a ship on the water. In Vickery’s original, the layout was vertical. Slack worked to make her painting horizontal, with crashing waves and the sun peeking through the clouds.
It’s tied to her strong faith as a Christian, which inspires a lot of her work even if it’s not always shown directly in her paintings, Slack said.
“We’re made to go out on the water, to not always be in a safe place or what we think of as a comfortable place,” she said.
Besides pursuing her bachelor’s degree, Slack is also considering continuing on with her education to earn a master’s in studio arts. It would allow her to go on to teach art at any college or university in the future.
“I enjoy working with people, I enjoy speaking with, teaching people things,” she said.
And just like a mentor stepped up to help her find her way in art, Slack said she’d like to be able to do the same for others someday.
“I’d like to be that person for someone,” she said.
Slack’s solo show will be available to view from April 17-May 31 at Eye Candy Gallery, located at 275 Northeast Broad Street in Southern Pines. The gallery is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call (910) 246-2266.