In-Sync with… Steven Lockwood (interview)

Artist Steven Lockwood with one of his creations.

This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with artist Steven Lockwood. Do not miss his personal recommendations at the end of the interview.

This year I had an invitation from Steven to jury a show at Water Street Studios in Batavia, Illinois. It was such a pleasant experience for me visiting Water Street Studios and meeting Steven in person for the first time. It was way beyond what I expected in terms of the beautiful space and the wonderful people that Steven has surrounded himself with at Water Street. Since then, I have been following what they do and I am very excited for their future. Personally, I find Steven to be a fantastic artist and an energetic individual perfectly fit to fill the roll he currently plays at Water Street. In my opinion, he is more than a gallery director, he is a community leader, visionary and an inspiring story. Enjoy!


Sergio: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree you received?

Steven: I went to Northern Illinois University and studied 3D Studio with a focus on Sculpting.

Sergio: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?

Steven: No, I felt school prepared artists to be artists. Now that I have acquired business knowledge through starting a business in the arts, I feel school needs to teach “the business of art.”

Sergio: What is one thing you wish you had learned at art school?

Steven: Preparing my portfolio beyond simply artistic ability into marketing myself and creating job proposals.

Sergio: What is your website?


Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?

Steven: I’m working on a new relief sculpture inspired by form and architecture.

Sergio: How does a typical day in your studio/creative space looks like?

Steven: You know how Michelangelo stares at his block of stone for hours before he makes a move to start creating? Ha, yeah, that’s my typical day, but with a lot of metal and tools laying around. Since I do measure twice before I cut or weld anything together, I’m sure watching me work has to be pretty boring. But seriously, my typical day is me walking into the gallery and addressing with any needs that demand immediate attention before I’m able to go into my studio. I’ll also say hello to others if they are in their studios as well before going to mine. Once in my studio and things are measured to the 10th degree, sparks do fly and pieces do get made.

Sergio: Describe your creative process.

Steven: I consider myself a formalist artists. My work’s artistic value is entirely determined by its form—the way it is made, its purely visual esthetic, and its medium. I emphasize compositional elements such as shape and texture and tend to use positive and negative space to interact with each other to create movement, making a more elaborate surface structure. I simplify forms to their basic geometric shape so that the emotions that are evoked are functions of the objects’ physical and intimate presence within the three-dimensional boundaries of our own world.

How I come up with a piece is that I mainly try to imagine what I wish already existed or what I would like to have exist in the future. As a by product of that though, I’m sure that’s why many pieces have a sci-fi influence. What comes out are sculptures that surround us and intimidate our feelings while leaving us wondering how we are the dominate species. I tend to make large work that extends from the wall and intrudes into our space.

My production process can be seen in what I call my blueprints. These are large pieces of paper that I literally use to create my pieces from. I draw out the image and measure ever piece that I’ll later create. I need it to know exactly where to lay the metal down and how big it should be. Once I cut the shapes out, I lay the metal on the paper where it needs to meet another piece and weld it together. In doing this, the spots on the paper where I am welding are burnt, which creates a great after effect around ever connecting point in my drawings. One could say that the pieces of paper are the actual works of art.

Sergio: What type of mental/practical activities do you do when facing a creative block?

Steven: Sometimes I’ll start welding little ideas together just to get the feel again to possibly start the creative juices going. I always carry a sketch book around and start drawing forms for just in case the time when lighting strikes and I have an image. Ha!

Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?

Steven: I find it a great way to stay in tuned to what’s going on with other artists and staying current with gallery shows.

Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?

Steven: Staying different and current, yet true to my art.

Sergio: What’s next for you?

Steven: I’ve been working on some of my creations for retail sales, as well as submissions for shows in Chicago.

SL Studio 2


Sergio: What excites you and dislikes you about your local art scene?

Steven: My immediate local art scene is the community of artists at Water Street Studios. I have a studio there amongst other artists that have gone beyond friends and become a extension of my family. We support each other in our artistic endeavors and careers. As a dislike, large egos can still get in the way of positive energy and collaboration between great artists.

Sergio: What is missing, lacking or changing in contemporary art?

Steven: Craftsmanship and Creativity

Sergio: What is your take on the current emphasis on contemporary art fairs?

Steven: Although fairs tend to be more on the crafty side, it’s a good way to get the general public who are a bit more intimidated of galleries out to view art.

Sergio: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?

Steven: Yes, artists need galleries as a way to advertise to a purchasing community and give authenticity to themselves. I think it is very important. However, when compared to the past, there are so many other media outlets that artists can use in conjunction with showing work in galleries to increase visibility, artistic patrons and buyers.

Sergio: How do you envision the art world would be different ten years from now?

Steven: I’m sure we’ll see more pieces that involve technology. Also, I’m positive we’ll be able to teleport the pieces to us on our couches, or teleport my pieces to different shows so I don’t have to pay so much in shipping.



Sergio: What motivated you to co-found a gallery in Batavia and what were your expectations?

Steven: My initial motivation to help start Water Street Studios was developing the studio spaces. It was my search as a sculptor that has always giving me trouble finding a space where a property owner would be ok with the torch. The gallery was a concept that came up later from my background in window display. I had many reasons for wanting to start a gallery, but it was more about education than anything else. I really wanted to educate the public to what real art was and make quality art accessible to the community in their backyards while showing that you didn’t have to go to Chicago to see it. It also was a way to showcase the local talent and all their different styles and media. But I never expected Water Street Studios to be as big as it became. I mean people came out of the wood work. When we first started talking to artists we were selling them on a concept. Our concept of a community of artists working together, a place to teach your skill, and where artists could get advise on their own work. It’s changed how I am as an artists. It turned me from a person who only wanted to make my pieces for myself and didn’t care to show my work, to a person who wants to talk to as many people as I can about their work.

Sergio: How does your roll of artist and gallery director influence each other?

Steven: I actually think it’s the only way to do it. I think about this a lot. There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do or have my artists sign that I didn’t do for myself. I feel that I care more about the artists and helping them become more professional by learning how to submit to shows and help show them how to present their work and themselves to a gallery. As an artists I do struggle at times in my studio. It is hard to jump from both sides of the brain and find myself thinking about what to do about the gallery as I’m working in my studio.

Sergio: What’s next for Water Street Studios?

Steven: Now this is going to be a mouth full because there’s always something going on……

Professional Development:

New board of Directors: We are honored to have Hennie Reynders (Professor in Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) Álvaro Amat (Exhibition Design Director at The Field Museum) and Laura Spicer (Curator/Organizer for the Next Gallery pop up Shows) as WSS newest board members. Along with existing board members Joi Cuartero (WSS co-founder, executive director of Batavia MainStreet), Jim Kirkhoff (WSS co-founder, engineering consultant).

Access Program: Since we have a waiting list for the studios, we are currently developing a new department where artists can rent shelf space in our facility while they use equipment that is a bit out of an individuals price range.

2013 Events

Core Project Chicago: “6 Women” Jan 11th, 7:30p

6 Women is a multi-disciplinary performance featuring original video, dance and sound scores by Core Project Chicago artists and collaborators. The evening-length work includes a variety of artistic voices exploring the various feminine roles the artists have taken on in their daily lives. 6 Women will create a web of movement and media throughout the gallery bringing the audience in close proximity with CPC’s dynamic explorations.

Waterline Writers (Every 3rd Sunday)

Waterline Writers is for lovers of literature who are eager to discover the best of local writing talent. On the third Sunday of each month at 7 pm in the gallery, talented published and not-yet-published writers are selected to read their work in this free public event.

Gallery Shows:

Winter Show
Opening Reception: Jan 18 -Group show (No theme). Guest Juror: Lelde Kalmite, Painter and Gallery Director of Bridgeport Art Center.

Carbon Show
Opening Reception: April 12 -Themed Show: Carbon – Life, Decay and Beyond. Guest Juror: Jess Mott Wickstrom, Gallery Director at Lillstreet Art Center

Summer Show
Opening Reception: July 12 -Group Show (No theme)

4th Anniversary Show
Opening Reception: Oct 11th -Themed Show: Essence and Intention: A Collection of Contemporary American Realists


Book… They make me fall asleep.

Art movie or documentary… Art 21

Art museum… A bad day at the MCA is better than a good day at the Art Institute Museum.

Contemporary artist (other than yourself)… David Smith, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra.

Place to be inspired by… In my studio at Water Street Studios or walking the city streets of Chicago.

One sentence advice for an art student… Major in Art and Minor in education or business management.

Chicago cafe/restaurant… GT Oyster fish

YouTube video… The Landlord -with Will Ferrell


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