We had the good fortune of connecting with Steve Rossi and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Steve, what are you inspired by?
More than anything, as an artist, I’m inspired by the world around me. Quite often I am finding aesthetic value in overlooked utilitarian forms and spaces.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I feel that the interdisciplinary nature of my creative practice is one of its most unique characteristics. In terms of where I am now, I’m an Assistant Professor and the Sculpture Program Head at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. I split my time between Philadelphia and the Hudson Valley region of New York. Before being hired at SJU two years ago, I taught as an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design, the State University of New York at New Paltz, and at Westchester Community College, as well as with an organization, Studio in a School, that brings visual art curriculum into the New York City public schools. Interestingly, I’ve often found that the skills learned crafting lesson plans and developing curriculum for New York City public schools has allowed me to adapt quickly to each of the colleges I have taught in.

I am led by my curiosity of materiality and interest in social and environmental engagement—often working between, and fascinated by, the intersections of sculpture, drawing, painting, and performative actions. I’ve included a brief description of two bodies of work, images of each can be seen on my website.

The Reciprocal Ladder series appropriates the ready-made form of a ladder for aesthetic and metaphorical purposes. Using the metaphor of a “ladder of success” as a lens to explore social equality from various angles, I am interested in destabilizing how we understand notions of personal success and social progress. Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement’s focus on non-hierarchical organization, the ladders in this series come together to form aesthetic structures where the utilitarian function is both enhanced and disrupted. The human body is suggested, but not depicted. The viewer’s body completes these works, as one imagines their own weight being supported by these colorful, but unstable and precarious forms.

The Transitional Spaces series takes its inspiration from the landscape in the Great Plains region of the United States, where pivot irrigation is widely used to support industrial agriculture. Through a mix of industrial and hand-made processes, this body of work raises questions around sustainability and the industrial nature of our food production, while also functioning as a tribute to the unseen manual labor in our food supply. Referencing satellite imagery, circles from irrigation, squares delineated by roadways, and the repeated linear elements of plowed fields are drawn upon for inherent colors, forms, patterns, and textures. These repeated geometric forms cover thousands of square miles. When flying over this region, the marks of human intervention are on stark view and can be seen and experienced in ways not noticeable from the ground.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In the Hudson Valley, in Beacon, New York, I would take them to Dia: Beacon, a great museum for minimalist art. Then we would put the canoe in the river and paddle from Long Dock Park to Dennings point. Mt. Beacon is always at great hike, and the view of the Hudson from the top never disappoints. The Roundhouse and Dogwood are two good spots for dinner and drinks.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I feel fortunate to place my parents at the top of this list. I have my Mom to thank for helping me to learn the value of setting a goal and seeing it though. While my Dad ran a small construction company, when I was growing up, and many of my early work experiences were on job sites with him. I’ll never forget learning about Lucio Fontano’s cut canvases in an art history class and then, on one of his job site’s, seeing a section of Tyvek covering a rough opening of a window; the Tyvek had been sliced in the same way Fontano slices his canvases. It was not an intentional reference to Fontano’s work at all. On the job site, the gesture was made to allow the wind to move through the Tyvek before the glass was installed, but it provided an early example of feeling like visual art could be discovered in our built environment and in the utilitarian forms around us.

Website: steverossisculpture.com

Instagram: @srossisculpture

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