Works
Overview

"Working with metal and stone enriches my spirit. The strength of the materials and the physicality necessary to manipulate them into a sculptural object has always activated my creative heart."

“Master your instrument, Master the music, and then forget all that bullshit and just play.”

Charlie Parker

 I am an artist-philosopher. I began asking tough questions about life and existence from an early age. Finding interest in the East's philosophy, I have studied Eastern history and philosophy and Western philosophy for the last 40 years. The profound immersion into philosophy led me to understand that my art-making was not something separate from me but that my art making is a deep and connected part of who I am as a person: a Zen practice, if you will. Like mediation, making art has is like the process of a Zen archer practicing the releasing of an arrow toward the target. 

Working with metal and stone enriches my spirit. The strength of the materials and the physicality necessary to manipulate them into a sculptural object has always activated my creative heart. The Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, with its inherent simplicity and beauty, guide my artistic path. The rawness of the materials and the partnership formed in creating a purely aesthetic object challenge the contemporary art world's existing binaries.

The transcendent moment when a sculpture comes to life is magic. The expression of form and philosophy, objects become both answers and questions to the meaning of what art and life can be.

Ideas of beauty and the importance of the contemplative object still hold significance in the lives of humans. The resting of our minds, bodies, and spirits in quiet consideration of our being may not be favorable under the post-modern influence, but finding peace in this way still supplies a necessary respite. Postmodernism's promise has resulted in a dead-end of dependence upon cultural and social problems for its impetus. Art needs, like humans, to act and perform autonomously to find happiness and create novelty. The sculptures I make are about beauty, simplicity, contemplation, and finding peace and freedom in a world that offers us only demands to integrate into its structures. 

 

Art is freedom.

 

Biography

"The art of ideas is fundamental to Steel's working process and is at the heart of his work to date. For Steel, art and life are not separate spheres. Instead, his art is only an extension of who he is and is thus fully integrated into his life." -- Sarah Evilsizor

Gregory Steel was born in Detroit and raised by his maternal grandparents in the Motor City's East Side's richly diverse neighborhoods. From an early age, Steel was encouraged by his grandmother's innovative use of ordinary materials in constructing unique objects and arrangements. Her novel approaches using environmental resources, combined with her support, positively influenced Steel's artistic development. Teaching himself art practice in his spare time, Steel held jobs in various disciplines to support his work. Still, after many years of making art independently, he realized he needed a serious art education.

Attending school part-time and working full-time, Steel received a BFA from The College for Creative Studies in Detroit and an MFA from the University of Michigan. Completing his studies, he took a position at The College for Creative Studies, teaching sculpture and experimental media. Steel is currently an Associate Professor of Fine Arts & New Media at Indiana University Kokomo. Gregory completed his Ph.D. In Philosophy from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. His dissertation is titled, The Sublime: an existential and ontological alliance with mystery.

The art of ideas is fundamental to Steel's working process and is at the heart of his work to date. For Steel, art and life are not separate spheres. Instead, his art is only an extension of who he is and is thus fully integrated into his life. Navigating academic discourse and Modernist and postmodernist dilemmas, Steel soon came to depend on his instinct that art is an internal process. His influences include Joseph Beuys, Allan Kaprow, David Smith, Mark DeSuvero, Anthony Caro, Alice Aycock, Joeseph Wesner, Jay Holland, Isamu Noguchi. Experiencing contemplative objects is foremost in Steel's work. To this end, Steel employs a variety of materials and techniques in his art, including video, object making, digital imaging, book publishing, installation, performance, and innovative technology, as well as traditional sculptural methodologies. 

A brush with cancer in 1998 affected his work in many ways that give him a higher focus and sense of urgency to complete his life's work. As an idea artist, he views the various materials he uses as merely a way to fulfill the art's function. Through this diversity, he resists easy categorization. Unable to be pigeonholed and deeply integrated with his life, Steel's artworks are a richly layered and evolving experience. His concerns about the human condition and social change and his hope for humankind are evident regardless of his final product. Whether Steel is collaborating in a groundbreaking physiological monitoring system with Cybernet Systems of Ann Arbor, creating intimate and humorous tableaus replete with miniature figures in outlandish settings, or constructing a monumental steel sculpture, his art emerges as thoughtful and timely. Steel's work has been shown across the United States and Europe, most recently in China, Russia, London, and Barcelona, Spain.

 

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