Rebecca Stees Channels Her Mojo

An Alameda visual artist brings compelling muses to life in her collages.


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Rebecca Stees’ Unusual Mojo series featured whimsical collages of figures she invited people to write stories about. The artist used her iPad to create all of the art.

Artwork courtesy of the artist

Rebecca Stees fondly refers to her distinctively figurative collages as creative characters, and she delights in how viewers explore and respond to them.

An artist for more than 25 years, Stees attended Parsons School of Design in New York City and the San Francisco Art Institute, where she was a contributing artist to The Potato Eaters, a college collaborative that created art in different media around the quirky theme of potatoes and finding beauty in the everyday world. As a contributing artist to that group, Stees exhibited throughout the country, including in galleries in St. Louis, Las Vegas, and New York. Soon after the cross-country tour, Stees found personal, professional, and creative fulfillment in becoming an art teacher.

A part of the local educational scene since 2003, Stees runs the popular Art Yowza camps, providing creative arts classes for kids over the summer and during holiday breaks. Stees also has taught art in Alameda public schools, thanks to support from the Alameda Education Fund, notably creating a dynamic school wall mural with a fourth-grade class.

As an art teacher, Stees surrounds herself with the typical physical tools of creating art—paints, brushes, and paper. However, when it comes to her own artwork, Stees uses an iPad as her palette. In her recent series Unusual Mojo, she created iconic and playfully figurative collages and colorful, ethereal abstracts born of pure imagination using Freemix, the free online art collage tool, and then printed the images on 8-inch-by-8-inch canvases.

Rather than express a point of view to an audience, Stees keeps quiet about the origins of her quirky characters and prefers that viewers create their own stories about her compelling little muses. The influence of dream work guides the images, she said, which were inspired consciously and unconsciously by her own lingering questions around current events and human nature.

“Mojo is about good luck, boosting confidence. These characters have their own charisma and resilience,” she said.

The joy and passion she has for Art Yowza and the children it reaches are palpable in her voice. “Art is an avenue for children to find their self-esteem. That starts with someone saying, ‘I believe in you. Your voice is important, and you can bring about change,’ ” she said.

Stees likes to lead her students through exercises that build empathy and equip them with tools of expression as well as the confidence to bring about positive change in their community. Toward that end, she has championed causes as varied as Operation Smile, the National Audubon Society, and Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter with her students.

As an artist and an educator, Stees loves to encourage exploration and action in her audience. “Creative courage is about taking risks—confidence as an artist to be able to use your gift, your mojo, out in the world.”

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