Stephanie Lucas never intended to paint. She started because she had to, as though something inside her insisted that she change not only what she was doing but who she was. She had been working as a clothes retailer, selling haute couture to tourists in Monaco, and one day her work ended abruptly in a nervous breakdown, a collapse of all that she knew about herself and her life up to that point. She entered a time of depression, and only when she began to paint did her spirit return.
She calls her work ‘automatic drawing’, a term coined by the Surrealists and detailed probably most extensively in André Breton’s 1933 article, ‘The automatic message’ (‘Le message automatique’, Minotaure, No. 3–4). That essay draws a distinction between the Surrealists’ attempts to tap the unconscious and medium-inspired art that channels some greater spirit, like the process employed by Madge Gill. The notion of medium-created art is probably most thoroughly revealed in W. B. Yeats’s description of the ‘automatic writing’ that allowed him, through his wife as a medium, to compose A Vision, his metaphysical treatise about the nature of the universe and its connection to his own creative output. While Yeats had an intermediary, however, Stephanie Lucas describes herself as the medium, as though she channels some larger spirit when she paints. She talks about an ‘energy’ that comes from the painting itself, an emanation of creative force that ‘speaks’ to some part of her, asking the painter within her to emerge. Her role as medium, then, is not simply enacting expression communicated to her; it is transformation, the energy calling her to paint. For Lucas, in other words, the energy makes her an artist.
Lucas was born in 1975 in Crépy-en-Valois, France, a sizable city just north of Paris that has become a commuter community for Parisians. She grew up in a supportive, working-class family. Her father was a truck driver and her mother was a cleaner, and, while her father gave her some drawing lessons when she was young, she pursued no systematic study of art while she was growing up. She was, however, immersed in the imagery and icons of the church. Her mother was a religious person, and Lucas was steeped in religious education. The first drawing that she can remember making was of Jesus Christ. As she grew up, her family became less centred on the church itself, moving away from a strict Christian faith and toward a broader spirituality. While she describes her mother now as very deeply connected to Christianity, her connection to the structures and hierarchies of the church have given way to other kinds of religious and spiritual expressions.