Walthall Fellow Spotlight: Steve Morrison

In the lead up to the 2017 Walthall Fellows’ exhibit at MOCA-GA this summer, we will be featuring an interview with each of the Fellows from this year’s cohort. This round, our intern Grace Gardner interviews Steve Morrison.

Steve Morrison received his MFA in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta in 2015. Morrison’s studio practice involves painting, sculpture, window screening, animated gifs, computer glitches, theatrical design, puppetry, folk magic, and baking. Morrison is a part-time art professor at the University of West Georgia and a professional illustrator.

Grace Gardner: What would you say has been the most valuable experience you have taken away from WonderRoot’s Walthall Artist Fellowship?

Steve Morrison: The most valuable part of the program for me has definitely been the people. The other artist fellows are incredibly talented, warm, and supportive. I’ve been able to meet people from all over the Atlanta art community, and learn how and why they do what they do. It’s been eye-opening and inspiring to see how rich this community really is.

GG: Can you describe your process as an artist?

SM: I work with a lot of different materials, and my process begins with a concept paired with a physical material. For example, in “Air (an opera for breath),” I’m beginning with the raw tactile quality of bread dough and its visual relationship with the human body. From there, the work expands outward through this somewhat ridiculous material and begins to touch on concepts related to spirituality, sexuality, and life cycles. I think through my materials and a lot of the process is simply about exploring these materials and learning what they have to say.

GG: What do you do when you find yourself at an “artist block”? Do you have any methods of pushing past that feeling?

SM: I tend to have more ideas than I have time to work on, so “artist block” hasn’t really been an issue for me. When I do feel stuck, I find it best to roll up my sleeves and just dive into making. The most liberating thing is to accept that failure is inevitable and necessary. Usually if I’m stuck it’s because there is some kind of censorious voice in my head telling me that the work is no good. If I can say, “That’s fine, I’m making it anyway” then it allows me to loosen up and actually make work. Make, make, make, and fail better.

GG: What advice do you have for individuals who are interested in becoming professional artists?

SM: Make great work and show it to people. Apply to everything and don’t waste time mourning rejection letters. Go to openings and meet as many other artists as you can. That sense of community is essential! Your community of artists lifts you and validates what you’re doing even though what you’re doing is pretty ridiculous. Most of all, prioritize your studio time! It’s sacred.

GG: In what ways, if any at all, is positive social change integrated into your work?

SM: My work has started to become invaded by political concerns for the first time in recent months. I believe that art can motivate and inspire us as we strive for a better world. Art can bring people together and can nourish our solitude.

GG: What do you plan to do upon completing the Walthall Artist Fellowship?

SM: I plan to continue working on a couple of bodies of work that have developed during the fellowship. I want to expand that circle of galleries and museums showing my work. I’d love to do some stage design as well.

Still from “Air (an opera for breath)”, Video, Runtime 8:10

Building a Ship from the Shipwreck,…..a matter of finding our way, or rather, a willingness to be lost opens at MOCA-GA on July 13, 2017. The 2017 Walthall Artist Fellowship was generously and lovingly facilitated by Sarah Higgins, curator of the Zuckerman Museum at Kennesaw State University. Tickets can be purchased here.

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