Steven draws intimate scenes in an effort to reframe the way in which we talk about otherness. Their works are a counter-narrative to the overwhelming onslaught of content about the oppressed. Content is the reigning superstructure through which we digest and frame perceptions we lack native access to, and the notion of Blackness is a historically recurring casualty of this superstructure. Much of the experience that encapsulates Blackness is having a caricature violently imposed on you. Depictions of black bodies both historic and contemporary flatten them into a tar-black caricature. Faces parodied with swollen lips and a bloated noses. The black body is hypersexualized and demonized into an exotic object of hate and lust.
The task of reframing otherness, reframing Blackness, cannot be accomplished alone. What Steven attempts to do, however, is hold and make space for it. Their drawings are glimpses and vignettes. They are run-away thoughts of times, places, emotions, peoples. Some of them are from my own experience, and some from others’. Through strokes of charcoal and graphite, they make darkness the protagonist. In this manner they shift the paradigm which considers light the dominant formal aspect across paper.
Darkness describes and constructs the forms rather than what is thought innate in light-deferent systems. Instead of preoccupation with maintaining luminosity, Steven depict spaces and bodies built from the additive darkness. As the image forms, they are devoted to controlling and negotiating the deepest range of the Image. Light and luminosity are merely players and accents. Darkness is not obfuscation—it can be just as revealing and descriptive, if one is willing to appreciate how intricate, inviting, and nuanced it can be. An interplay of warm and cool black washes and gradations can be just as bombastic or hushed as any other work.
Follow Steven on Instagram: @s_a_johnson