Filed under: In the Studio | Tags: Anoka Faruqee, Evan J. Garza, George Condo, homoeroticism, queer, samsøn, Steve Locke
Featured in edition #86 of New American Paintings, Steve Locke makes work that is colorful, complex, and unapologetically human. Concerned with figuration and perceptions of the male figure, Locke’s paintings evoke richness in all its forms. I sat down last week with the Boston-based artist in his Hyde Park studio, where he lives and works, to discuss his paintings, his mother, and ideas of queerness. Above his door, a brightly-colored neon by the artist fluctuated between the phrases, “GOD IS LOVE” and “you little faggot.” —Evan J. Garza
EJG: Before we left for coffee, we were talking about those pieces (pointing to the wall) that feature a pattern of faces and those wonderful gradients of color, and you mentioned your mother.
My mother died of lung cancer in 2004 and I was back and forth between here, in Massachusetts, and Michigan, flying back and forth to take care of her. I’m a very anal retentive person and I schedule time to be in my studio, and I was so upset and so overwrought about it that I didn’t know what to do [while] in the studio, so I just tried to paint my mother’s profile from memory. And there’s tons of work in that series because I would just come into the studio and mix this color, gradient by gradient, just trying to ease the transition. I don’t normally talk about this work, it’s been hard to show, it’s been hard—all that sort of stuff—but I like you.
No, really! …It’s funny because I don’t—like I said, you’re the first person I’ve ever really spoken to, outside of my close friends, about what that work is about, but as I get older, and the event of my mother’s passing gets further and further into the distance, I feel like I have a different relationship to that work now. The hard part about it is I keep trying to change the content of that work to make it speak to people in different ways. I think that a lot of people misunderstand paintings. And that’s fine—sometimes that misunderstanding can be really interesting. With that work in particular, it’s always been so close, I didn’t want people to misunderstand it. I’ve always been very, sort of, protective of it.
EJG: And it must also be difficult because it is so conceptually different from the rest of the work that you make.
Very much so. I’ve always let people have their own experience with their eyes. I know that the modern moment is over where an object can talk about everything all at once. I think sometimes text is helpful. But with these paintings, for me to talk about where they came from would diminish their visual power, and they would start to become this sad thing, and instead I wanted them to be these sort of evanescent moments. And since then I’ve seen Anoka Faruqee, and her work is so brilliant, but working with the same idea with gradiation and stuff like that—her work leaning more towards abstraction and mine staying with a figurative basis because I think it’s the only thing I know how to paint. It doesn’t occur to me to paint anything else.