Alice Steffen Biography

Alice Steffen (aka Alice Essex) is a young British artist emerging on the London art scene. She is a conceptual artist whose fresh ideas are gaining a great deal of interest. Her works are executed into diverse sculpture or performances. 

Alice’s work embodies the exploration of language, pop culture, stereotypes, class, gender and identity. These themes are taken from everyday experiences, segregation of class based social systems, and the extreme environmental comparisons of class. Exploration of these topics are transposed into her work, which becomes a dialogue with the viewer. Her work is autobiographical, reflecting the multiple facets that define her personhood.

The topics she chooses are reflected in her material choices. She manipulates colour and objects e.g.; shoes, lipstick, car doors, fake nails, plums. Erasing the original labels of these objects, her work conveys materialistic messages which can be awkward or uncomfortable, changing the dynamics of the objects in the presentation.

Alice was born in Cambridge, England in 1989, her home being in a small rural Essex village.  Educated at local schools before studying Sculpture and Environmental Art at The Glasgow School of Art, The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and The City and Guilds of London Art School.

Alice was awarded a First Class Honours Degree from Glasgow University in 2011 and a scholarship to study a Postgraduate Sculpture Diploma at the City and Guilds of London Art School. (2012)

In Chicago, Alice worked as an intern with the artist Gabriel Akagawa exhibiting with him jointly in various U.S States. 

She was part of the team chosen to support artist Allen Lamb in the production casting and mold making for the decoration of the bow of the Queen’s Royal Diamond Jubilee Barge, 2012.

The themes Alice explores through her practice are in direct response to her personal experiences. Discrimination, class, culture, language, stereotyping) It is her observation of how people interact with these topics which informs the core values of her work. 

Examples of her work exploring these themes have been exhibited in London, Glasgow, and the United States.

Alice first hit the headlines of the Scottish national newspaper ‘The Scotsman’ in June 2011, reviewing her work exhibited in her degree show.

“If American artist Jeff Koon’s is the king of kitsch, then Alice Essex (real name Alice Steffen) is its potential queen. Work in her degree show includes Sculptural lamps made out of white stilettos and a dramatic installation consisting of two car doors hanging from the gallery ceiling that are reminiscent of an angel’s wings.” [i]

The work referred to, titled ‘The Eden of Essex’ consisted of five flower like sculptures made from white stilettos, positioned around a ‘sun bed’ sculpture. This work was a response to the negative way ‘Essex Girls’ (including herself), are viewed by their stereotypes in popular culture. Based on where they live, or where they grew up, regardless of education or social standing, ‘Essex Girls’. Often derogatorily referred to as ‘dumb blondes’ wearing trademark white stilettos and fake tans. The sculpture transforms these trademarks, transforming them into objects of beauty and value.

‘The Arches’ exhibition, Glasgow 2012, included a video installation of Alice performing an extract from the classic ‘Pygmalion’. In the piece titled ‘One day I will Speak Pretty’, she explored language and class by performing the verse “ The rain in Spain, falls mainly on the plain” this verse is used in elocution lessons within the play.  She recites the verse over and over again with a plum in her mouth, in an attempt to eradicate her ‘common Essex accent’. This piece is a commentary on the negative way ‘Essex girls’ are viewed due to their dialect and class.

Alice was commissioned by Revlon to exhibit works at the British Film Museum, London (2012) ‘Enamoured: 80 years of Revlon.’ Her pieces included ‘Message in a Bottle’ and ‘The Rise of Revlon’.    

Her most recent exhibition ‘Tomorrow’ (London, 2013) focused on identity, using familiar materials to change the perception of them to convey powerful messages about superficial identity. The piece, a loose grouping of ‘stinging nettle sculptures’ represents women of Chelsea. The piece comments on their identity engaging the viewer to confront their personalities.

Her future creative ambition is to continue her exploration of language, class, popular culture by exploring different aspects of relationships using objects and materials to change the way we look at the world and our perception of it.   

[i] Tim Caldwell and Susan Mansfield, ‘Fresh thinking art schools to the fore in Glasgow and Edinburgh.’  The Scotsman Newspaper website, 9th June 2011 http://www.scotsman.com/news/fresh-thinking-art-schools-to-the-fore-in-glasgow-and-edinburgh-1-1680525 (2/11/2013)