We were lucky to catch up with Steven Labadessa recently and have shared our conversation below.
Steven, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. We’d love to hear about when you first realized that you wanted to pursue a creative path professionally.
Hmm, where to begin…
Well, I’ve been drawing since I was 5 or 6 (doodling with Mom in the kitchen). I never really stopped, but I think I took my talent for granted … of course, my parents were concerned for my economic well-being & discouraged the idea of any art-related career. So, while I did formally study art in college (primarily drawing & sculpture) and received a BA, my primary degree was a BS in Psychology (focusing on gender & personality). To which I graduated lost as to what I was to do or be with 180 or so credits (I was planning on a triple degree).
Afterwards, I worked a 9-5 job and took art classes and acting classes (as I was having a “crisis of media”) on evenings and weekends, which led to applying and going to law school (after a notorious audition at Julliard). Ultimately, law school ended up being a very expensive catalyst to get me back on track (going 180 degrees in the wrong direction). And, I’ve never looked back with regret, when I retired from the law promptly after (some say during) graduation.
From that point onward, I was committed to nurturing my talents, developing/maturing my work formally & conceptually along with incorporating a perpetual study of visual culture as part of my life in the Arts.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
Now, to be clear, I am a bit of an outlier, when it comes to my practice in the 21st Century.
Inspired by the legacy of some of my teachers including Lee Bontecou and Lennart Anderson… I aspire to be a fine artist in the visual arts. What does that mean? I believe in a humble discipline in a life in the Arts that aspires toward mastery of one’s voice in a given medium/media.
Well, suffice to say that my work is not designed for commercial ends. If it is appreciated along those lines, that is wonderful, but that is not a goal or concern. I remain the greatest patron of my work to date. Though again, I gladly welcome and am humbled by the patronage I have received thus far whether thru gallery representation or actual sales of my work.
I do not say any of the above to be dismissive to more commercially minded artists, designers, illustrators, etc. nor do I suggest or recommend my path (it is costly emotionally and fiscally to say the least).
Art is about communication. And, I am most thankful that I have had the opportunity to exhibit my work both in curated solo and group exhibitions in the years past my time of formal studies. It is this along the respect of my peers that affords me a level of validation keeps the spirit nurtured, contrary to the maddening pressures & abuses of living in a capitalistic society
My website is the sole area where the most comprehensive survey of my work can be found.
Parallel to my studio practice, I try to maintain a career as a college/university educator, which is very, very, very challenging these days (2022), when, for lack of a better word, censorship within the classroom is a real threat to not only the survival of the Arts, but culture and, perhaps, civilization as we know it. It is fight that I have fought routinely and have found myself censored (by both students and institutions) and barred to due to political pandering on part of institutions and individuals if not outright discrimination insanely viewed virtuous from a myopic if not narcissistic perspective of the world that worships the cult of celebrity and greed amok.
Is there mission driving your creative journey?
The pursuit of veracity in process and the belief in the universality of the first language (visual) to communicate/commiserate/celebrate the pains and pleasures of the human experience.
What do you find most rewarding about being a creative?
To be a student of visual culture… looking and learning from others. And, this is an expansive view to include many arts forms such as theater, dance, film, comics, anime, manga… both high, low and purely independent.