Profile: Steve Locke (1963-)

Steve Locke is an American artist who explores figuration and perceptions of the male figure, and themes of masculinity and homosexuality through drawing, painting, sculpture and installation art. He lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts, where he teaches at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Early life and education

Locke was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He is African-American. He spent the summer of 2002 at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpturein Skowhegan, Maine. He received his MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2001 and holds Bachelor’s degrees from Boston University and Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Career and work

Steve Locke, there is no one left to blame, 2013, ICA Boston

Locke’s art explores the meaning applied to male portraiture. His works comprise several portraits of men – for almost a decade, he has reworked the particular gesture of a man with his tongue hanging out of his open mouth. “It’s hard to make a painting of a man and not have him look important. So I came up with this weird gesture,” Locke explained in an interview with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. “I like that they’re not heroic, and not attached to any body,” he said of his pieces, which straddle the line between sculpture and painting. “They’re floating around in the atmosphere, waiting to possess somebody, or get inside your head and transform you.” He aims to “make paintings of men who were vulnerable, or exposed, without using the obvious trope of nudity.” His work provokes broader social, sexual and art historical conversations.

Locke is a former professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, and currently teaches at the Pratt Institute. Locke was awarded the Art Matters grant, visiting Istanbul in 2007 to see the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia with a specific interest in exploring themes such as patterning, decoration, calligraphy, and wall painting. In 2008, he was the visiting professor and artist in residence at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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