Stephen Estrada’s paintings come out of his lifelong explorations of the natural environment. Working at a variety of scales he creates paintings that evoke movement, light and the ever-changing textures of the land and sea.
Stephen was born in Chicago, IL. His father soon moved the family to Southern California to be closer to his extended family in LA and Mexico. He grew up surfing and hiking the nearby mountains and deserts. Those early experiences instilled a deep appreciation for the power and fragility of the natural environment. His mother, a painter, studied at the Chicago Art Institute and continuously encouraged his creativity. After graduating high school in North Carolina where his family had relocated, he moved to Massachusetts to attend the Boston Art Institute. He took a studio in the Plant Shoe Factory, a thriving artist enclave in Boston’s Jamaica Plains section.
On February 1, 1976 fire destroyed the building and the work of over 100 artists who lived and worked there. Soon after, Stephen moved to Washington DC to attend the Corcoran School of Art. He studied with Bill Christenberry and Robert Stackhouse who encouraged his exploration of the natural world as a source for his paintings.
While continuing his studio practice Stephen took a job at the Smithsonian American Art Museum where be began a successful 25 year museum career. His positions included exhibition designer at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery; Design Chief overseeing exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum; and Curator and Director of the US Diplomacy Center and Museum. There he worked with six current and former Secretaries of State to create a new museum to promote a better understanding of diplomacy at the US Department of State in Washington, DC.
In 2012 Stephen returned to the studio full time. His current body of work began following a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway in 2010. Back in his studio, Stephen discovered one of his only early paintings to survive the fire: a surfer, skidding down a large wave, a memory of his years in California. He knew it was time to return to the sea as a source for his paintings. His current work includes the Latitude 37 Series, an exploration of exact points along the 37th parallel from Half Moon Bay, California to coastal Virginia.
Stephen’s work reflects 19th century American painters such as Albert Pinkham Ryder whose evocative land and seascapes inform his use of light and tonalist approach. Influences include contemporary photographer Clifford Ross as well as early Renaissance artists who used layering and visualization of deep space as an avenue for spiritual exploration.
Stephen works from his studio in Silver Spring, MD. He has shown extensively on the East Coast, including the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Maryland, the Arts Club of Washington and Cornell Art Museum in Delray Beach Florida. His work is in numerous public and private collections including the Mellon family of Virginia.