Interview – Steve Prince

On Friday, October 18, Steve Prince welcomed us to his exhibition ‘Kitchen Talk’ at the Islander Art Gallery. Before his lecture, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview him. He opened up about his personal life, religion, culture, politics, and most importantly, his work. Prince is a Virginia-based artist whose work exemplifies his interests in art, music, and religion, addressing issues of social injustice through a metaphorical language of faith, hope, and creativity

A lot of your works deal with love, social injustice, and faith. Were any of these paintings based on personal experience?  As far as love and faith, I do not see those things broken apart. Personal experience is what I create with. This is my faith, my love for humanity, and my love of self. My work is dealing with historical facts and truths through a spiritual lens. I have created my symbology for my work to communicate this and challenge our ideas. I want people to challenge themselves and others on how they look at the world and how we look at each other.

What is your creative process for starting a new drawing or print? A playground for the creative process I go through is my sketchbook. This is where I practice my drawing daily. I draw anything I see: people, places, nature, etc. Most of my days, I interact with people, so a lot of my drawings consist of people I meet, my girlfriend, my friends, world events. My work has a lot of information compacted into a space that tells a narrative. This forces the viewer to have to sit through and analyze my drawing. My drawings tell stories that each viewer may see differently.

When starting your career in art was there an event, a person, or idea that inspired you to pursue this dream?  Yes, several people helped inspire me. The very first person to inspire me to become an artist was my brother. He is an artist as well. When I was young, I would constantly watch him draw. Then fast forward to high school, I had an art teacher. She saw that I had talent, so she would pull me aside and work with me. Then in college, I had a mentor named John Scott. He was the key person to pull it all together for me. I saw him as a family man, a professor, and a person who was involved with the community. I quickly saw the impact he had on others, which inspired me even more.

Has the current political, cultural, or religious climate influenced your artwork? I see the past, present, and future as an ongoing continuum. I see the past five years just the same as I see the past 10 years or 30 years. Let me know which decade you think is good. Each decade you go back had its own challenges. You can’t go back to America’s infancy and think those are the good days. They were all warped with a lot of challenges, and some deep philosophical social issues that this nation was built upon. So, if I say what has happened in the past two years as far as social and political issues, they are no different than what has already been going on. What is important is being conscious and aware of things. I think too often in the President Obama years everyone thought we had moved to a post-racial era. Then with this past presidency, it seemed that we went back in time. This idea of the post-racial era never existed. This was a time of smoke and mirrors, and people fell asleep on what really was going on around us. My work aims to bring awareness. I am going back in time and forward in time to show people connections. I do this to show the work that we must do to overcome these obstacles.

In your designs, I have noticed a frequent amount of symbolism. Does this come naturally or is it a conscious effort? It is a conscious effort. So much of what I do to develop in terms of symbolism comes from reading, studying, looking at other artist’s work, hearing stories, and spirituality. I take all this information and create my own symbolism.

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist trying to make it in the industry? When I talk to a lot of students, they often express to me a level of fear of the unknown, what comes next. Students often ask themselves what the purpose is of being an artist and what should I say as an artist. These are all great questions you should be asking yourself. These questions allow the opportunity for you to be open and honest with yourself. You will be able to realize who you are and what questions you will want to answer as an artist. As a college student, I continue to work and study. You are very fortunate to be able to take time and study this stuff. How many other people who want to be artists have the time to study this stuff? Many aspiring artists do not have this luxury of being in college. With this privilege of being an artist comes a lot of responsibility. What are you going to say through your work? What are you going to speak to? The first person you should speak to is yourself. You are the first recipient of the work.

Interview done by Wes Jones