Steph Untz


When I was a girl, my family spent most of our vacation time in rural Kansas. While in Lindsborg, Kansas, my mother would take me to the local gallery at the college in town. This particular gallery had a collection of boxes from different countries. They kept these boxes in a glass case where they sat open and empty. I used to wonder where these boxes had been. Who had owned them? And what had been inside them? To me, they had lives of their own. But then as I looked upon them, they lay empty, sitting still.

Since those days I've always been drawn to boxes or containers, an attraction that has prompted my own collection. Either finding them and repainting them or just having them for their different interiors and exteriors.  I've always found it hard to decide what to put into these special containers, as if it weren’t up to me to fill them with my own things.

The boxes and cases presented here are place holders for people or portraits of people. Each box is an object that has held many things, sometimes items that are meant to be hidden and sometimes items that are cherished. I will never know exactly what has been in all of these containers, much like I will never know everything about any one person I "know."

As people, we contain many things inside of us. Much of this we do not realize consciously. Much of this we rely on daily. Much of this we hide locked away inside of us. 

The paintings in this space are portraits. They are representations of the physical aspect of people and the moments I've spent with each person. Like the boxes, they are also a collection.

"Why don't you come to my studio and sit for me? Or I can come over to your house?" This is how these portraits begin. By beginning this way, I am connecting my art-making with my life. I want my life and my painting to weave in and out, creating a dialogue between the two.

Presence is important in these portraits and the containers that are placed in this space. The dictionary defines "presence" as "the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing." This definition summarizes why all of these objects are in this space. They are a collection of people sitting still and time spent. Each portrait and box is a record of presence.


Steph Untz is an Interdisciplinary artist who works with paint, wood working, and illustration. Located in Okinawa, Japan. Soaking up all the culture and history around her. Find out more about her work at