Steve Prince, a talented illustrator and printmaker, visited Notre Dame this week and shared insights about the powerful message of his work. He is an animated and spirited individual who creates images that speak about the human condition and draw inspiration from equally meaningful images. Prince focuses primarily on what it means to live as a black male in America and creates images that collage the history of oppression, slavery, discrimination, and the incredible strength and perseverance of the persecuted.
Prince was commissioned by Segura Art Studio at The Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture to create a linocut print over the course of 10 days in South Bend. His piece “Rosa Sparks” depicts a representation of the bus scene that occurred in Montgomery, Alabama when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, setting off a chain reaction of civil rights battles and victories across the country. He included religious imagery throughout his piece and small homages to Notre Dame can be found throughout the piece, such as the halo that surrounds Rosa Parks which matches the halo on Touchdown Jesus. In the far left corner a young black woman represents the Madonna with baby Jesus sitting on the back of the bus carrying a look of uncertainty and fear on her face. Next to her is a representation of Treyvon Martin who stands defiantly with MLK and Malcolm X in his shadows. The representation of the average black male with a double edge sword for a tie and standing in the “hands up, don’t shoot” position starkly contrasts the apathetic stance of the white bus driver. Outside the bus are protesters whose signs and movement penetrate the bus and create a cohesion of events, showing the fluidity of the civil rights movement.
Above: Close up of the lower left corner of “Rosa Sparks” depicting the Madonna, Treyon Martin, and the shadows of slavery, MLK, and Malcolm X. Below: Close of up Rosa Parks depicted as what Prince calls an “AOG” or “Agent of God”
Princes work is deeply rooted in his sketchbook practice and the process of illustration. He cannot remember a time when we wasn’t drawing and creating images. His work stems from several artists and grows from his upbringing in New Orleans. He spoke to my metal foundry class on Fat Tuesday and gave a beautiful and lively description about the processes of honoring life and how artists play an integral role in defining the imagery of a person, especially in how they’re martyred and mourned for. He records the processional burial traditions that stem from New Orleans and incorporate a build up of Jazz music that leads to a cathartic release of human emotion through dance and praise. He even got our class to sing, which is a difficult undertaking when speaking to college students!
Above is a snapshot of Prince’s sketchbook where he first begins fleshing out his ideas. He is working on a graphite print called “the salt of the earth” which depicts three black men absorbing hatred and discrimination from a white male in a diner. The men all cary an expression of strength and cary the patch of “AOG” which shows they will persevere to create incredible change. Prince’s work contains incredible depth and meaning that is hidden amongst his unique drawing style. Each element has a story and is integral to the meaning of the piece as a whole. Each person carries their own history hidden in the lines that build their structure. His work answers a question about the human condition and makes a statement about how we as a society should learn from our history to grow in the future to be more inclusive and respectful.
Steve is an inspirational artist and has pushed me to find more meaning in my work. I was fortunate enough to spend time speaking with him at Segura Studio and see his artistic practice in action. He feeds off the energy of those around him and works tirelessly to create beautiful art. The work that he creates takes on a life of its own and tells an important and meaningful story. He is a true artist.
More work by Steve can be found here: http://www.eyekons.com/steve_prince/steve_prince_home
I encourage you to check it out!