Born in Phoenix, Gary Stephens was raised in the small farming town of Yuma, Arizona, located on the Mexican border. He studied Fine Arts at the University of Arizona and the San Francisco Art Institute, and moved in 1998 to Florence, Italy, where he lived and worked for the next ten years. In 2008, Stephens moved to South Africa and began working on an extensive series of portraits of his artist friends, centring on their style and dress.
Monumental in scale, Stephens’s portraits pay homage to the African traditions of hair braiding, hats, headscarves and contemporary urban style. By avoiding a frontal view, taken from the perspective of the back of the head, the drawings give focus to the sensitive nuances applied to the subject’s hair or hat and the modes by which they give structure to individualism.
In 2013, Stephens exhibited alongside one of Africa’s most prominent photographers, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, with Networks and Voids: Modern Interpretations of Nigerian Hairstyles and Headdresses at Omenka Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria.