Steve A. Prince
Artist Steve A. Prince is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and he currently resides in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he is an assistant professor of art and artist in residence at Allegheny College. He received his BFA from Xavier University of Louisiana and his MFA in printmaking and sculpture from Michigan State University. He is represented by Eyekons Gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and ZuCot Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, and is the owner of One Fish Studio LLC.
Pictured above: During his May 2014 residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Virginia Beach, Prince collaborated with community members to create a thirty-foot-long woodblock print titled Gestalt: The Whole to the Part.
Materials, style, themes
I create primarily drawings and prints. My current body of work consists of linoleum cuts, which is in the relief-printing family. My creative process begins with intense research and detailed sketches in my sketchbook. I create intricate drawings on the surface of the linoleum and utilize various woodcutting tools to remove the negative space around the positive lines rendered on the block. When the cutting is complete I roll the surface of the block with oil-based printing ink, place archival paper on the surface, and run the block through an etching press. My artistic process is focused on fostering an atmosphere that is conducive to drawing together disparate parties to deconstruct and challenge stereotypes that may be generationally seeded within a community structure.
I am concerned with the human condition. My artistic process is focused on community engagement. I have consistently made work that endeavors to venture beyond social commentary and offers solutions to our communal problems. With my art I have addressed issues of race and representation, faith, gender equality, ageism, socioeconomic disparities, and global and environmental concerns. It is my belief that we all have a voice and a purpose, and it is my endeavor to use art to make a physical manifestation of the communal body.
Art and Faith
I see the world through an artistic lens. For me, there is no division between art, faith, and life. As an artist of faith, I am cognizant of the power I wield in creating works that speak about the human experience. I am able to express Biblical truths symbolically, metaphorically, and address issues that have plagued mankind for centuries. I recognize that historically not much has changed in terms of the human struggle: we’re still affected by the same desires, temptations, and the option to choose life or death. All that’s changed is our surroundings.
I am currently working on a body of work titled “Old Testament Series.” The premise of the series is that true love is like an old testament made new each day. I am re-contextualizing the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, fashioning the text as a love story. The Old Testament is essentially about God’s covenantal relationship with mankind, which leaves us with the question, What is one of the ways mankind tries to enact this kind of relationship on earth? I deduced that marriage is one of those institutions that we have created that reflects agape love. “Old Testament Series” is a series of linoleum cuts on paper that tell a story about a couple trying to maintain a covenantal relationship amid the complexities of home life and the temptations and distractions of society. Upon first reading, the images appear to be simple narratives, but upon closer inspection one will realize that each image is layered with poly-narratives that tell a complex story of love and commitment.
1. Soul Music: Anniversary. Linoleum cut on paper, 24″ × 36″.
This image shows a married couple sitting on a porch bench staring into each others’ eyes, professing their love for one another. As renewed vows flow from their lips, music plays from within them: a drummer mimics the beat of the man’s heart while a bluesman passionately blares his horn. The husband’s arms cross to form an “X,” which stands for a crossroads, the cross of Christ and hence his sacrifice, and the mark of the ancestors that came before them.
2. Job: Take Me to the Water. Linoleum cut on paper, 24″ × 36″.
This image shows a couple sitting on the porch of a New Orleans home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The “X” notation on the house was put there by a search-and-rescue team, indicating that the search inside that dwelling place has been completed. The two sit in a double posture of lament and faith: the woman clasps her hands in prayer while the man holds on to the thin strap of her dress, which alludes to the fragility of life. The couple is experiencing a “Job” moment, as they have lost their material possessions and many loved ones through this ordeal. Through it all they profess that they will be alright, as suggested by their postures and their calling out to God, in the words of an African American spiritual, to “take [them] to the water . . . to be baptized” into new life.
3. Genesis: In the Beginning. Linoleum cut on paper, 24″ × 36″.
In this image a couple lounges in their bed. The man reads a book titled Prelude while the woman is on an Apple computer. The book represents the way couples used to interact prior to the computer age, whereas the computer represents contemporary distractions that vie for our attention and make it difficult to maintain a covenantal relationship. The couple reveals a deeper narrative and lets the audience know that their love is still strong and connected, as shown by the soft caress of their legs. The wine on the table alludes to Christ and his first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
4. Lamentations: Send Your Rain. Linoleum cut on paper, 24″ × 36″.
In this image a couple trudges through a storm together, proving that they are not just fair-weather friends. The Holy Spirit appears in the form of three elongated figural drops, which symbolize the presence of God in the midst of the rain.
5. Plant in Me. Linoleum cut on paper, 24″ × 36″.
In this image a woman dances vigorously unto the Lord, asking him to plant in her those things that are rich, purifying, enlightening, and true. The house that springs from her belly represents Bethesda, or “house of mercy,” the name of an ancient pool in Jerusalem where invalids would go to be healed. Lilies and irises—symbolic of purity and faith, respectively—cascade from her body and create a hedge of protection around her. In her hands she holds a white handkerchief, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, whose presence is made evident by her expression of deep joy and peace.
Prince has created several public works, including a bronze bust of 1967 Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Ruppert Leon Sargent, located in Hampton, Virginia; a stainless steel kinetic sculpture titled Song for John, also in Hampton; an 8′ × 16′ woodcut titled Make Me Over, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and a welded aluminum sculpture titled Open Expressions, located in Richmond, Virginia.
Lectures and Workshops
Prince has lectured internationally in both secular and sacred settings, as well as conducted workshops in a variety of media. Many of his hands-on workshops and community-based projects have culminated in the creation of permanent communal artworks. He operates under the credo “your imagination is your only limitation.”
Prince has shown his art internationally in various solo, group, and juried exhibitions, including at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art; the National Gallery of the Bahamas; the Rita Maria Cultural Center in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil; the Grand Rapids Art Museum; the New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture, and History; the Louisiana Art and Science Museum; the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center in Portsmouth, Virginia; Hampton University Museum in Hampton, Virginia; and the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia.