Thursday, February 09, 2012

Steve Walker 1961-2012

He may have not been a mainstream household name, but within the gay community any guy with eyes most likely knows the name or has seen the art of Steve Walker. 

Before I began putting my own work on display (around 1999-2000) I really had little knowledge or even much awareness about, the 'gay art' genre. I of course had seen gay themed paintings and illustrations but didn't know the names of the artists or anything about them.

That quickly changed, and Steve Walker was perhaps the first artist whose name and work I began to easily recognize.  I am sure that was partly due to the immense popularity of his work.  But I was also drawn to him because, while his work was gay themed it was not first and foremost about sex (not that there is anything wrong with that).  His work spoke about the emotions, relationships, and social aspects of being homosexual, and that's something I, along with countless fans of his work, identified with. 

From the beginning of my career I've gotten comments comparing my work to his, which I've always taken as an honor.  While I see all the differences in our art, just the fact that people saw qualities in my work that caused them to compare it to the most well known contemporary artist of the genre was and is humbling.

Years later when my work was picked up and represented by a gallery (Lyman-Eyer of Provincetown) that also carried Steve Walker's, it was definitely a benchmark moment for me. 
 
When I got the news a month ago that Steve Walker had died at a mere 50 years old, I was saddened, stunned and in disbelief.  I guess in the back of my mind, since we brushed along the same circles, that one day I'd get to meet him in person, thank him for inspiring me as an artist and in my life, talk technique with him, and commiserate about the social anxiety of gallery openings. From all your fans, thank you for the gifts you have given us, you will be greatly missed

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The popularity and significance of Steve Walkers work and can be best illustrated in the context of time. While the gay rights movement began in earnest in the 1960's and 70's it wasn't until the AIDS crisis in the 1980's forced the closet door open and society could no longer ignore their gay brothers and sisters or dismiss them as the flamboyant fringe that marched in big city parades.  By the 1990's there was no denying us.  More and more they became aware that we were their neighbors in suburbia, their mailman and mechanic, their aunts and uncles.  Steve, through his own personal perspective, held up his art like a mirror to this quickly growing out and proud segment of society.  It wasn't just that his work resonated within the gay community, it was that he also showed those who regarded being gay as 'just about sex', that we care, love, cry, and dream just like everyone else.  Over the years he constantly managed to capture our lives on his canvas.


   
    

5 comments:

Sal said...

Wow, I know how much I enjoy Steve's art, and for the very reasons you mentioned....it was about life and love and family and relationship. I do think you are very much inspired by his work, but you are also in a class by yourself in the detail and depth of your work. I appreciate both of you very much, and thank you for all your vision.

Anonymous said...

What sad news. I have admired and collected Steve's work for many, many years. I was always moved by the depth of emotion and caring in his works. My favorite is his picture of a couple kneeling in front of the Aids' Quilt on the Washington Mall. He will be missed.

Anonymous said...

i just started to see his art and admired his paintings so. to leave this world so young. i'm deeply saddened by this news. peace n love Steve.

Alvaro Gómez Prado said...

When I was 18 I heard about Steve's art for the first time. Being an aspiring artist myself I always dreamed of sitting down with him and having a cup of coffee or something while sharing experiences. I also wanted to thank him for helping me through my own process, even without knowing me. That's how powerful he was, he had the ability to touch our lives and, as you said, put a mirror in front of us. I grew a lot watching his work and can only hope that one day I can help others with mine. He will be greatly missed.

Ryan Walker said...

This post is proof that Steve touched more lives then he could probably imagine. My first contact with Steve's work was through a portrait of our grandmother he did for her birthday. Having only met my cousin a handful of times, I can honestly say that he was as humble and honest as his artwork portrays. He painted his life and you didn't have to be gay to relate to his art. you just had to be human. I've always loved the stories that could be told from each single frozen moment. It shook us all to hear of his passing. But it is a confort to know that his legacy will live on and through his art he will continue to touch people's hearts and encourage them to express themselves in their own way.