Thursday, September 6, 2012

“Look for deeper meanings in life and in art”: a report on artist Steve A. Prince’s visit to Dordt College, September 1-4, 2012

From a photo shoot of Steve A. Prince’s art exhibition at Dordt College. This photograph illustrates Steve standing next to Exodus: Bread from Heaven which is from the Old Testament series, 2012, 24 in. x 36 in., Linoleum Cut. Photos by Doug Burg.

Steve poses next to Job: Take me to the Water, also from the Old Testament series, Linoleum Cut. To the left is Lamentations: Send your Rain, 2012, Linoleum Cut.

Student recollections (in their words) of quotes from Steve’s presentations:

  • Be a Living Epistle
  • Keep the light on!
  • Be the Ecclesia — “the called out ones”
  • MINE your business; dig deeper than the surface
  • Confront life’s nastiness
  • There are gaping wounds that need to be healed
  • Old soil [the past] is doomed to be repeated unless addressed
  • Your past may be stained but your future is untouched
Starting Sunday evening (9.2.12) with his exhibition opening Steve Prince was kept very busy for three days and energetically gave of himself to Dordt in so many powerful and challenging ways. Steve is an artist and art educator based in Silver Spring, Maryland; he and his wife Valerie are co-founders of One Fish Studio.

Last Tuesday (9.4.12) Steve wrapped up his time at Dordt College as the First Mondays Speaker, visiting gallery artist, studio guest, and workshop leader. Steve has developed a reputation as an excellent and demanding teacher; he's continually producing artwork and commissions that have received international acclaim while managing a full schedule of gallery exhibitions, workshops, and lectures to audiences of all ages.

On Labor Day Steve spoke in the morning to a full house in the BJ Haan Auditorium and had his audience riveted. The afternoon was dedicated to a monoprint workshop with 18 participants. In the evening event Steve’s presentation was both powerful and profound. He went into more detail and deepened the themes of his morning lecture by showing a more complete body of his artwork. Steve is one of the finest storytellers I’ve ever heard and of great interest to me is the way in which he tells his narratives through visual art. Steve’s evening presentation was titled, “Second Line: The Art of Social Justice.” He began by showing a slide of one of his pieces in the Dordt exhibition titled, “Requiem for Brother John” and described the work which is based on the New Orleans funeral tradition of the dirge as a sad song for the one who has passed away. In Steve’s art the dirge is a metaphor for personal and communal sadness, corruption, and loss – the sad fact that things are not right in the world.

Then as a sure sign of hopefulness Steve followed his “Requiem” piece with the next piece called, “Second Line: Rebirth” in which he described the contrast as “cathartic”. In the New Orleans funeral tradition, after the mourning has taken place, the processional continues as a “Second Line” and becomes a celebration of the life of the one who has passed away. In the afterlife the person's life is made new and he/she is reborn. In Steve’s artwork, the “Second Line” is a metaphor for purification, liberation, and cleansing.

In several ways the themes of the “Dirge” and the “Second Line” are foundational metaphors in most of Steve’s work. His work is intense and challenging, symbolized by very strong black and white contrasts; every aspect of the compositions is full of meaning.

Steve has had a very positive impact on each community that he's been a part of and on those who view his work, as well. His artwork conveys the impact of the New Orleans storytelling tradition. Steve speaks sincerely from his heart and is genuinely interested in making the world a better place to live. Steve's abilities and talents are amazing and we were very fortunate to have him on campus.

Steve Prince’s visit to Dordt College was sponsored by the Andreas Center for Reformed Scholarship and Service.

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