steven destabler

Sculptor Stephen De Staebler

Stephen De Staebler had just graduated with his undergraduate degree in religion from Princeton, as well as Army service, when he enrolled at Berkeley to earn a teaching credential. Instead, however, he ended up studying art at Black Mountain College alongside Ben Shahn and Robert Motherwell.

He and Peter Voulkos worked to transform ceramic materials from mere craft into powerful mediums for contemporary sculpture.

Early Life and Education

Stephen De Staebler was an American sculptor specializing in clay and bronze work. Born in 1933 in Webster Groves, Missouri – where he resided – De Staebler died at 78 in 2011. He completed his bachelor’s degree in religion at Princeton University in 1954 and spent one summer at Black Mountain College studying art with Ben Shahn and Robert Motherwell before going on to receive his MA from University of California Berkeley under Peter Voulkos’ tutelage in 1961. De Staebler’s work was showcased at several museum and gallery exhibitions over his 53-year career, most prominently the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Matter + Spirit: Sculpture by Stephen De Staebler exhibition that ran in 2012 with its accompanying monograph published by UC Press.

Personal Life

Stephen Lucas De Staebler was an American sculptor who worked primarily in clay and bronze. Over his long career he produced over 20 public site-specific installations as well as teaching art for over fifty years; many of his works can be found at several museums such as Metropolitan Museum of Art and Smithsonian American Art Museum.

He credits his basketball days for teaching him how to fill space with his body, later applying these physical qualities to his art. For example, he would literally swing from studio rafters for better views of large undulating floor pieces or jump into clay to form an unforgettable pelvic area.

De Staebler was a prolific artist, producing work over five decades and showing it widely at galleries and museums around the country. In January 2012, Matter + Spirit: The Sculpture of Stephen De Staebler opened at San Francisco’s de Young Muesum.

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