I am honored to introduce you to
Novelist, Poet, and Artist & Professor Steven Sherrill whose studio I visited while passing through State College, Pennsylvania.
About Steven Sherrill
I have been making trouble with words since 8th grade when I was suspended from school for two weeks for a story that I wrote.
I’ve been making visual art since the 1990ish. I’m self-taught; I try to repeat the things that work, try not to repeat the things that don’t and find joy in making all of it. Once, I showered with a frozen pig’s head because I wanted to begin painting it before going to work.
I’ve wanted to make music for my entire life (owned and abandoned guitars, fiddles, harmonicas, banjos, a saxophone, an accordion, etc.), but never felt as if I had the right.
I’m slowly getting over such a silly notion.
Now, I find myself a Professor of English and Integrative Arts. And I have a pretty good understanding of my creative energy: how it cycles, the tricks it plays, and how to feed and care for it so that I can make work. But the path to this point has been much more of a ricochet event than a planned journey. I quit high school after failing the 10th grade. After a lot of hazy wasted time (that included hours and hours watching Gilligan’s Island), I earned a Welding Diploma from Mitchell Community College. Many years later (filled with pursuing a career as a chef) I went on to an MFA in Poetry
from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
My first novel, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, grew out of a poem by the same title that came to me, almost complete, as I was walking across a bridge over the Iowa River, on my way home from posing nude for a roomful of undergraduate art students.
The novel helped me earn a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Fiction in 2002, went on to be translated into 8 languages, and was recently released as an Audio Book by Neil Gaiman Productions.
There’ve been other books since, and more in the works. And, I keep my clothes on in public now.
Some things that may have informed my art endeavor:
I used to think it was essential to have a secret. I no longer believe this.
I was raised in an environment where fear dictated choices and decisions
I am the son of a fearful mother and a father who had no positive male role models in his life. Both are loving in the ways that they can be.
I am the father of two powerful daughters. I strive to model for them the wide-eyed, open-hearted life.
I am not a scholar or a theorist.
As a novelist and a poet, I think deeply and carefully about my work and my project.
As a (self-taught) visual artist, I prefer to let my inner juvenile delinquent run the show. I don’t think about why I make the images I create. Instead, I think about what’s next. I let the images lead me. My standards are pretty low (compared to what I hold myself to as a writer), and my fun factor is high.
The masks are tricky. Hard to keep in place. Even harder to remove. Everything I paint or write may be a self-portrait. Or they may be pictures of (how I see) you. Is there a difference?
There’s much more on Stevens’s website if you’re willing to poke around. If not, thanks for visiting anyway. www.stevensherrill.com