2007 Dan Steeves

Portrait of Dan Steeves, Strathbutler 2007 (photo - James Wilson))

Portrait of Dan Steeves, Strathbutler 2007 (photo – James Wilson))

Printmaker Dan Steeves won the Strathbutler Award in 2007. This award is in recognition of his a significant contribution to the visual arts in New Brunswick and to the broader cultural dialogue within the region.

In selecting Mr Steeves for this prestigious award the jury noted the power of his work to evoke a universal meditation on place and time.

Dan Steeves’ work has been exhibited in galleries in Canada, the United States, Holland, Italy, Japan, Poland, Taiwan and the Ukraine. His prints are represented internationally in both public and private collections.

In the artist’s words

Finding poetic resonance in stark black and white images of local landscapes, Dan Steeves’ work suggests the fragility of life in the ceaseless flow of time… Steeped in the traditions of printmaking, his innovative work challenges our notions of stability and permanence.

Living near the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick has made me think about the relationship between our existence and the relentless cycle of the tides. The passage of life can be considered analogous to the constant shifting and moving tide, often being made up of many destabilizing situations. The flow of our lives, like the tide, is measured or attempted to be held back by the flags, fences, and markers of our experience. These experiences keep the mind in a state of flux, while subconsciously imprinting or staining our personal history. In these encounters, the illusion of the house looms in the landscape, with its physical structure undergoing change over time.

This iconoclastic portrayal objectifies the house as something that waits, keeps a vigil and denotes shelter or sanctuary. The metaphor of the structure of the house points to the changes that affect our lives. It also asks the question why we build the house [read lives] into a fortress, thinking it can become a stronghold of security. This stronghold, in the end, can become nothing more than a paradox of restricted isolation, making the ideal of the fortress a deception in our minds. It is the totality of community and the strength of its relational bonds that are lost within the utopian walls of the fortress.

The physicality of the house is not a simple visceral reading but grapples with the psychological shifts of encounters that texture our lives over time. As with the physical memory of the house, beauty is not restricted to the pristine and immutable, but is found in the inevitable deposits, the decay [read change] in our lives. The marked memory of the house begins with the familial but moves thematically towards forging hope and locating grace amid unsettling change.

American humorist Garrison Keillor describes humour as “being like grace, that is all around us”. We just need to look to see it. In the city of Amsterdam, there are archetypal hooks that hang from each building. These hooks exist to move large objects up and into those narrow structures. For me these ‘Amsterdam hooks’ have become symbolic of the grace found in that place. I have become increasingly interested in inserting them into the landscape around the Bay of Fundy, attaching them to inanimate objects like rock cliffs and structures that have the appearance of being beyond hope. These hooks, like fences, the tide poles and other markers that are a part of the landscape, become compositional points of stability in the work, as well as metaphors for measuring the experiences of life.

The starkness and simplicity of the black and white prints allows for clear investigation of these concepts while not becoming inhibited or laden with local color. The marks made on the etching matrixes examine the nuances of subtle change that I see all around me. These distinct details affect me as an artist in my physical and psychological relationship to the landscape.