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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Outdated phonetic writing becomes art for Stacy Mandell

For former secretary turned lawyer turned artist Stacy Mandell, it became a bridge between her former and current life.

“I learned Gregg Shorthand as a secretary,” Stacy says, “and immediately fell in love with this beautiful, phonetic writing system. Gregg Shorthand is the most popular form of pen stenography in the United States. It has been adapted to other languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Irish, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Esperanto, Thai, and many others.”

“Because Gregg Shorthand is based on phonetics, it records the sounds of the speaker, not the spellings. Therefore, in any spoken language, Gregg Shorthand is ultimately a global writing system. With the advent of technology, however, the usage of shorthand has declined, and its instruction is nearly extinct.”

Originally, Stacy was on a completely different path. It wasn’t until she learned shorthand as a secretary after college that something popped into her because she loved it. She could write 160 words a minute.

“I would practice with the TV, and it got to a point where people would talk to me and I could just visualize the shorthand, which was really cool. I tucked it away and went about my business of being a secretary and followed my strengths into law. I was admitted to law school and became a lawyer in practice for 20 years.”

She married a man who had a disability due to an accident. They moved to Florida and she became his full-time caregiver. Then, she took an art class that was literally for beginners.

“I knew that I wanted to replicate what was in my head, and that was taking the text, taking what I heard and writing it out, expressing it as art this way. And people seemed to like it, so I kept doing it. I didn’t do it for anything other than to get it out of my head.”

She visited art fairs and galleries in search of the right tools and mediums.

When she felt ready to create, the election drama of 2020 was happening, so she took her cue from transcribing the Constitution into artwork. She painted one with parchment colors and another that was brighter.

THE NEW CONSTITUTION by Stacey Mandell. The entire Constitution, including the amendments, transcribed into Gregg Shorthand. Acrylic on linen canvas, 5’x7’. (Photo Pedro Penalver, WPB Magazine)

Then her husband of 25 years passed, and she began using shorthand paintings as a way to honor him, transcribing the sonnets of William Shakespeare, one of his favorites.

“I pulled out a bunch of sonnets that he used to read to me and recite to me. I wrote it out and I put it out there. I think inspiration is all around me. It’s a matter of ideas falling like rain, but which is the raindrop that’s gonna hit the tip of your tongue, right?”

“But it’s positive. It’s universal. I’m not the first person to have lost a spouse. I’m not the first person to grapple with grief. I’m honoring our marriage and our relationship, and it becomes something more than just who I am or what I’m about.

To the casual observer looking at these paintings, one would never know the backstory, though it looks like some kind of language going on there.

Stacy agrees and says “that’s what I love about abstract is that you can decide for yourself, stop, look, what you see or what you feel from it. I create it, I paint it, I express myself, and then it becomes something else. It’s more than just what I think it is, then it becomes what you decide it is.”

She was only painting for four months before she started showing anything.

“This is kind of a funny story,” she says. “I was taking an abstract art class near Art Boca. I’m walking around the booths and I see Paul Fisher Gallery. We had a conversation. I showed him what I was doing, and I told him a little bit about it. He’s bowled over. This is the first time he has ever seen anything like what I was doing. He ended up taking me on as one of his artists in his gallery. I still show with him.”

Stacy exhibited The Constitution painting at The Box Gallery last November.

Online at StaceyMandell.com

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