Stephen Albair

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Stephen Albair
Stephen Albair & "Precarious Interlude".jpg
Self-portrait in front of his image titled "Precarious Interlude".
Born Stephen Albair
(1942-06-30)June 30, 1942
Haverhill, Massachusetts
Nationality French/Irish
Education BS, MS and MFA (Illinois)
State University (Illinois)
Known for Tableaux Photography, metal and small sculpture jewelry

Stephen Albair (born June 30, 1942) is an artist living in San Francisco who specializes in tableau photography, metal work and narrative jewelry. Born in Haverhill, Mass and raised in Atkinson, New Hampshire, he was part of the thriving arts scene of the 1970s and 1980s in Chicago and New York City, where he became part of a community of artists that included Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, before moving to San Francisco in 1989. His metal work was exhibited at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian in 1974, 1981 and 1984, and the American Crafts Museum, NYC in 1983, 1984 and 1986.

Among Albair’s chief influences are Ken Botto, Ray Johnson and Man Ray, whose work both as a jewelry designer and a photographer served as model for his own inclinations, as well as Marcel Duchamp. In the 90s his work was shown in Seattle, Denver, New York and London. In 2008 he mounted his show, Stranger in a Dream at the Kathmandu Photo Gallery in Bangkok Thailand. His continued interest in “blurring the reality between what’s real and what’s realistic,” resulted in a book, Hidden Gardens Private Views published in 2010, which then led to another show in Bangkok, Beneath the Veneer in 2011.

Early life and education[edit]

After receiving his undergraduate and post graduate degrees from Illinois State University, Albair began teaching and received his first recognition in Chicago, aka the “the city of the big shoulders” according to poet Carl Sandburg, when he was awarded 2nd prize by the Art Institute of Chicago in their 1973 Chicago and Vicinity Artists Exhibition. In the late 70s Tiffany & Co, Chicago displayed two of his sculptural works in their windows.

Albair’s early life was tumultuous from the get-go, as soon after their birth he and his twin sister Jeanne (Gariepy), were moved to a foster home in Atkinson, New Hampshire, followed by stays in numerous other homes, as well as a year together in an orphanage from ages 7–8. After living with the Albair family for 2 years in Atkinson, New Hampshire blocks away from his sister, Albair chose adoption at age 14. Despite not living together as teenagers, he and his sister Jeanne attended Haverhill, High School together for three years. In his senior year he quit high school to enter the United States Air Force. While in the military, he gained a GED certificate attending the University of Illinois before being discharged from the Air Force in 1965. It wasn’t until his mid-twenties that he began to study and experiment with art.

Beneath the Veneer, 2011
Dream Within a Dream, 2011
Hidden Gardens - Private Views (book cover image), 2009

These early experiences, his close relationship with his sister, and his time spent teaching account for much of the imagery he has produced. Though no specific autobiographical images have entered his work, these experiences set the stage for the themes of love, loss and longing that pervade much of his output.


Beginning as a goldsmith, Albair’s interest in narrative is ongoing and palpable. Starting with so-called narrative jewelry in the 1970s—based on the centuries-old idea of using jewelry to tell a story—his initial works combined disparate materials and objects in order to produce pieces of what the Chicago Daily News said transmitted "both humor and whimsy, and which could be worn as jewelry or seen as art objects in and of themselves.”[1]

Albair became interested in tableau photography via a close friend and working relationship with Ken Botto, often described as an eccentric who created staged tableaux of toys and found objects set in a political or psychological context in order to photograph them. Prior to moving to San Francisco in 1990, Albair enjoyed academic or lecture positions with a number of institutions, beginning with Western Illinois University and including The New School in New York City, Parsons School of Design, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Columbia University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Texas A & M. In addition he showed work at a number of galleries, including the American Crafts Museum in New York, the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery, and the La Mama Galleria in New York.

Once ensconced in San Francisco his pursuit of tableau photography took up the majority of his artistic energy. Over the next fifteen years he showed at a number of galleries in the Bay Area and began to teach at Las Positas College in Livermore California. In 2007 his work caught the eye of San Francisco’s 7x7 magazine. In the article entitled Idol Worship[2] written by Melissa Goldstein, Albair compared his work to sculpture, because of his great emphasis on “stage direction” in the setting up of his tableaux. When pressed, he admitted “one of the things I try to build into all these pieces is a sense of longing for something that is not there.”

In 2008 he mounted his show, Stranger in a Dream at the Kathmandu Photo Gallery in Bangkok Thailand.[3] His continued interest in “blurring the reality between what’s real and what’s realistic,” produced a collection of pieces featured in his book, Hidden Gardens Private Views published in 2010,[4] and resulted in another show in Bangkok, Beneath the Veneer[5] at the Thavibu Gallery in 2011.

Besides Ken Botto, major influences on Albair’s work includes Ray Johnson, Man Ray, (whose work as both a jewelry designer and a photographer served as model for his own inclinations) along with Marcel Duchamp.

Exhibitions and collections[edit]

2012 The Perfect Exposure Gallery Los Angeles CA Thavibu Gallery Beneath the Veneer - Installation Bangkok Thailand

2011 Photographers Market Place Side Gallery Featured artist Rayko Photo Gallery San Francisco CA

2010 Bolinas Museum Botto's World Bolinas CA Rayko Photo Gallery The Last Kodachrome San Francisco CA Illinois State University Galleries 2010 Alumni Exhibition Normal IL

2010 Kathmandu Photo Gallery Bangkok Thailand Installation: Hidden Gardens - Private Views

2009 RayKo Photo Center San Francisco CA Still Life Selections Pro Arts Gallery Oakland CA

2008 PhotoArt Asia Expo 2008 Bangkok Thailand Exhibition Lounge & Zen Gallery at Central World San Luis Obispo Art Center San Luis Obispo CA Group Exhibition: California Dreamin’

2007 Kathmandu Photo Gallery Bangkok Thailand Installation: Stranger in a Dream RayKo Photo Center ( Side Gallery) San Francisco CA Installation: On the Edge of Safe

2006 GarageGallery San Francisco CA

2005 Pro Arts Gallery Oakland CA Montclair Gallery Oakland CA RayKo Photo Center San Francisco CA

2004 Los Medanos College Pittsburg CA

2003 University of California Chico CA Café Comptoir San Francisco CA

2002 San Francisco Open Studio Hunters Point Shipyard CA

2001 Noe Valley Art Space San Francisco CA The Lift Gallery San Francisco CA

1999 Summerhill Gallery Chapel Hill NC

1997 Rayko Gallery San Francisco CA

1995 US Information Agency Washington DC International Traveling Exhibitions

1994 Metropolis Contemporary Art Gallery Seattle WA Museum of Contemporary Crafts San Francisco CA

1993 Crawford and Sloan Gallery New York NY Hassel/Haeseller Gallery Denver CO

1992 International Sculptural Center Washington DC Master Gallery Denver CO

1991 La Mama Galleria New York NY Photographer's Gallery London UK

1990 Bridgewater/Lustberg Gallery New York NY P.S. #1 Long Island City NY Alcove Gallery Henry Street Theatre New York NY

1989 Blum Helman Warehouse New York NY Asian American Art Center New York NY East Carolina University Greenville NC Metropolis Gallery Dallas TX

1988 Z-Zai Project Tokyo Japan Metropolis Gallery Dallas TX 'Locus Gallery St. Louis MO 1987 Elektika Gallery Miami FL

1986 Alternate Galley Dallas TX Mobilia Gallery Cambridge MA American Crafts Museum New York NY [ALSO 1983. 1984]

1985 Smithsonian Institution: Renwick Gallery Washington D.C. Texas A & M University, College Station, TX Gallery One, Ft. Worth, TX Jane Baum Gallery, New York, NY Nimbus Gallery, Dallas, TX City Without Walls Center, Newark, NJ Village Gate Art Center, Rochester, NY American Crafts Museum, New York, NY

1984 New York University, New York, NY East Texas State University, Commerce, TX Pinnacle Gallery, Rochester, NY

1983 Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA Marianne Deson Gallery, Chicago, IL Quadrum Gallery, Boston, MA American Crafts Museum, New York, NY

1982 Rizzoli Gallery, Chicago, IL DeVille Gallery, New Orleans, LA Heller Gallery, New York, NY Zoma Gallery, New York, NY

1981 Gallery One, Ft. Worth, TX Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX Art Expo '81, New York, NY Zoma Gallery, New York, NY

1980 Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Halifax, NS, Canada University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC University of Illinois, Urbana, IL

1979 Tiffany & Co., Chicago, IL Dobrick Gallery, Chicago, IL Slocumb Gallery, (ETSU), Johnson City, TN Synopsis Gallery, Winnetka, IL Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI Americans In Glass, Wausau, WI University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ


  1. ^ Shelton, Patricia (10 October 1977). "Would You Wear a Trinket as a TV?" (PDF). Chicago Daily News. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Goldstein, Melissa (October 2007). "Idol Worship" (PDF). 7x7 magazine: 72. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Russell, Camilla (3 Jan 2008). "Stephen Albair - a stranger in a dream" (PDF). Bangkok Post. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Hidden Gardens - Private Views". Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Musikett, Yanapon (14 Dec 2011). "What lies beneath" (PDF). Bangkok Post. Retrieved 14 May 2013.