In Memoriam: Stephen De Staebler

 Winged Figure, Flora Lamson Hewlett Library

Stephen Lucas De Staebler, noted Bay Area sculptor, passed away at his home in Berkeley, California, from complications from cancer on May 13, 2011, with family by his side. He was 78.

De Staebler is known for his fractured, fragmented figurative sculptures in fired clay colored with powdered oxides, and for cast bronze sculptures colored with patinas and pigments. His work focused on the suffering of humanity and the transcendence of the human spirit. “We are all wounded survivors,” he said in an interview, “alive but devastated selves, fragmented, isolated—the condition of modern man. Art tries to restructure reality so that we can live with the suffering.” His sculpture Winged Figure is a focal point in the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library.

He earned his Bachelor’s in Religious Studies from Princeton, and a Masters in Art from the University of California – Berkeley. He joined the art faculty at San Francisco State University in 1967, teaching sculpture until his retirement in 1995.

A prominent figure in Bay Area art world, De Staebler was also an emeritus member of the Board of Trustees for the Center for Arts, Religion and Education (CARE), a GTU affiliate.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has organized a retrospective exhibition, Matter + Spirit: Stephen De Staebler, to open January 2012 at the De Young. A special Space for Faiths issue (January 2011) of ARTS (Arts in Religious and Theological Studies) magazine was dedicated to De Staebler’s works and Art and Religion education at the Graduate Theological Union.

Local obituaries: San Francisco Chronicle, Berkeley Daily Planet, Contra Costa Times