Unravelling Threads of Life
RAISED IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA IN A MEXICAN-AMERICAN HOUSEHOLD, STEVEN LOPEZ’S EARLY OBSESSION WITH ARCHITECTURE, MANUAL LABOUR AND BOLD FASHION IS EVIDENT IN HIS INK DRAWINGS OF TEXTILES AND OTHER WORKS TO THIS DAY.
by Mindy Cook
In his words…
“I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon. In high school, I took up architectural drafting classes, which satisfied my compulsion for straight lines, organized patterns and mathematical equations. During my graduate studies at the San Francisco Art Institute, I developed my technical execution to match up with the conceptual ideas, understanding ‘what you say in your work’ is equally important to ‘how you say it’.
I later discovered the ink drawings of textiles as an off-shoot to my acrylic paintings. This literally happened one drawing at a time, pushing the concept of lines on a piece of paper, culminating in what you see today as unravelling textiles. There’s no doubt I was influenced by my mother’s sewing factory job where she worked under strenuous conditions, and I strive to pay homage to her journey.”
What is the connection between you and fabric?
I grew up next to my mum who spent a lot of her time sewing. It’s a big part of my childhood and a connection to her. As a young boy, I remember how each school’s plaid uniforms would identify them as a tribe of people. There are many hidden messages in my works such as notions of sexuality, gender and class. The loudest message in my work is during the moments when the fabric unravels and calls attention to the disruption or imperfection in the work. In my life there’s a real need for me to have structure, control and stability while also having a place for the unpredictable, organic and adventurous. These moments of unravelling are happy little accidents that bring us back into the present moment.
Have you ever been tempted into the world of fabric in a craft sense?
Oh, I was a child of craft and the hot glue gun was always at the ready. I love to make things and am a real DIY fanatic. I learned to sew early on and still alter many of my own garments. The last serious garment I made was a navy blue corduroy blazer with a toile print fabric lining. I deconstructed a wool blazer I found at a thrift store to make a pattern. I’m also notorious for making sure all my t-shirts fit snug in the sleeves. I have an overlocker machine that does the trick, it’s amazing!
I can imagine your paintings as designs on textiles.
I hope that my textile drawings and ideas will find some way into the world of fabric. I’d love to team up with a designer and collaborate on something fun. I don’t imagine simply silk screening the patterns or drawing onto fabric, I’d rather work closely with a designer on weaving the actual textile and controlling the thread patterning. There is also a real need to include those moments of disruption through ‘unravelling’, and to figure out how to make them happen.
How long does it take to create, say, a piece from your ‘Patches’ series?
The Patches series consists of drawings that are about 9″ x 13″ and I can make one drawing in a single sitting – about four hours. Just so you know I don’t use any pencil when executing these drawings. It’s all ink on paper. I’m obsessed with pushing my limits and really challenging what I can do by hand. I want people to question if the work is done by a machine/computer or by hand. I have some very large drawings that are 36″ x 48″which can take me a few weeks to complete.
What are you working on now?
I’m continuing the series of ‘Some Strings Attached’ in various sizes and thinking about making more from the ‘Patches’ series in a larger format. I also have some acrylic paintings in the works that are a play on the still life works in art history, by using objects I consume, and calling them ‘shelf lifes’. I’ve made about 10 ink drawings and am ready to make paintings. They are a real puzzle to put together and fun to work on. If you enjoy plaid, bold colour and major optical illusions you’ll certainly enjoy these paintings!
My favourite colour currently is…I wear a lot of blue. I look great in turquoise!
What I love about summer – lying out in the hot sun with friends by the pool, sipping a cocktail.
What I love about winter – pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin latte- anything PUMPKIN!
Who is inspiring me right now… Currently, Michelle, my little sister who is pregnant with her first child. It has really intrigued me to think about a future generation and how we pass on information, as well as the responsibility of influencing a new life. Since I don’t have any children of my own, her journey is a real inspiration. This will certainly creep into my work and studio practice.