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Foss: Schenectady artist helps people find peace

Foss: Schenectady artist helps people find peace

Foss: Schenectady artist helps people find peace
Keisha R. Stovall with her artwork that is on display at the YWCA.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

To look at the women is to wonder. 

Who are they? 

Where did they come from? 

What stories might they tell? 

The women's faces are depicted in paintings and pastels now on display at YWCA NorthEastern NY, the non-profit organization that runs the only domestic violence shelter in Schenectady County. 

And while they are warm and full of life, they are not real people. 

They come from the imagination of Keisha Stovall, a Schenectady artist who told me she wants to "help people find peace through art." 

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Keisha R. Stovall artwork on display at the YWCA.MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Keisha R. Stovall artwork on display at the YWCA.

The YWCA serves as a resource to women and families in need, and is a good fit for Stovall's artwork. Her women are all people who have "survived pain" - something she can relate to. 

"I'm a survivor of domestic abuse, and once I overcame that, the creativity kept flowing out of me," Stovall said. 

Her show at the YWCA is a statement: "Look how far I've come. You can do it, too. For it to be here is incredible." 

I met Stovall about a month ago, when I visited her at her apartment on Duane Avenue in Hamilton Hill and interviewed her about something completely unrelated to art. 

It was only after we'd been chatting for a while that I learned of Stovall's talents, and she pulled out some of her artwork for me to look at. My favorite was a portrait of a cheerful-looking man with long hair, but she showed me other pieces, some of which are now on sale at the Schenectady Trading Company on Union Street. 

The pieces at the Trading Company are bright and inspirational: a sign that says "be fabulous," a sign that says "today I choose joy," an abstract swirl of color on a white background.  

"I'm big on inspiration," Stovall said. 

Stovall also teaches art, and describes herself as a "self-made art instructor" who didn't "go to school or get a degree to be an art instructor." 

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Keisha R. Stovall artwork on display at the YWCA.MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Keisha R. Stovall artwork on display at the YWCA.

Earlier this year she ran a 10-session family art hour at the Electric City Barn on Hamilton Hill - a class she hopes to repeat in 2020. She also teaches at C.R.E.A.T.E Community Studios in downtown Schenectady and sometimes offers arts programs in local schools. 

"I've always been an artist," Stovall, 45, said. "I was born an artist and I'm still an artist." Growing up in New York City, she pursued "drawing, singing, dancing and acting." 

A single mother, Stovall has four sons who are seven, 11, 13 and 25, and a 17-year-old goddaughter. 

"My kids are interested in art, and that pushes me to do more art, to show them it can be done," she said.

Stovall's women are part of the annual Festival of Trees at the YWCA., held jointly with the Schenectady County Historical Society. 

They are striking images, characterized by deep, soulful eyes and calm expressions. 

 

They are also beautiful, in a modest and unadorned sort of way. The ones I like best are also the most surreal: a faceless woman with big, colorful hair, a woman with bright, white eyes that give her an otherworldly appearance. 

"If you give me a piece of paper and pastels, I'll start creating," Stovall told me. "I'll create the background first, then I'll work on the eyes, then I'll do everything else."   

The faceless women are faceless for a reason, Stovall said. 

"I want you to see who you want to see," she said. "I want you to see yourself when you look at this picture." 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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