Falling Keystones

In thinking about the postmodern preferences for didactic rather than aesthetic approaches to artmaking, I decided to use formal language rather than a media approach to the problems. Keystones are the supporting structures upon which systems are held together. Postmodernism pointed out the dissolution of the systems of control, power, and manipulation of classes of people within the world. The falling keystone represents in formal language the insecurities of these systems and the potential for failure. These sculptures are not specific like many works of contemporary art that support the lack of insight and powers of contemplation lacking in modern humans. They instead provide a respite and stopping point upon which to test the human capacity to envision and plan for a future that may change. These sculptures offer a moment unburdened by the media strategies prevalent in many contemporary art practices.

This is the first of a planned series of falling keystones; more to follow. It is available now if you would like to include this work in your collection and life. Please reach out to me here or at gregorys@gregorysteel.com for more information.

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Out of Chaos

“out of chaos” Steel, 20.5 x 16 x 15.5 inches, 2022

I chose to title this sculpture “out of chaos” because the more aware I become of what is happening around me, the more I realize the function of chaos and our responses to it. The truth is that our world is full of confusion and our feelings of order and structure are only illusions we hold to ease our minds and make a living in turmoil possible. Disorder frightens us, makes us anxious , and drives us to the imaginary world of order created by modern social structures. No matter how convincing the illusions are, the truth is that the world and universe are unpredictable and frantic with activity. Our minds cannot envision or accept this reality, so we find comforting mythologies and ideologies to rest our worries in.

Like all uncertainty, the way to find comfort is to continually stand with it and make a friend of the mystery. Only through a concerted effort to grow comfortable and at ease with the mysterious can we start to understand our possible reasons for being. This comes to us through contemplation and focus. Like all my work, this work has contemplation as a primary focus of its intent. The ability to leave the flood of modern civilization behind for a moment or two allows us space to consider what is and what can be beyond the conventions of the contemporary world.

I hope these formal objects will work as points of contemplation, offering a respite from the rush and business of life. I have high hopes for humanity and the possibility of a future filled with potential and peace. The question must be asked, can we survive in another way? Can we prosper and build a world of justice and peace? Is it possible to see it clearly under the barrage of demands of the modern world? Or must we find ways to transcend and shed the trappings to vision a better way? I hope my work can make a small contribution to a transcendent set of possibilities for a future that is better and chooses always to become better.

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Mu, no thing.

Mu, steel, 26 x 13 x 9 inches.

Mu, translated into English, is nothing or closer in meaning to the Japanese no-thing. As I began exploring the idea of object-making in the contemporary world, certain ideas and feelings began to arise in me. Specifically, the lack of humanity in the popular art forms being produced and displayed in the galleries of New York and London, and the Authoritative art publications, I felt a distinct lack in myself and art in general. My observation of all the things I had seen in these places displayed a lack and owness to the constructed culture. Hence my decision to work by instinct alone; my only guiding principles came from understanding my humanness and the human beings around me.

What became paramount in this practice was determined by what humans needed, really needed, detached from the illusions of the capitalists’ commerce-driven existence we are all familiar with. Art is and always will be a type of perspective; either we see beauty or we don’t. We can project positivity or negativity; we can focus on the filings of our culture or remind ourselves what is important about having a human culture in the first place.

The series of works from this idea continues and will continue; I think until a shift in perception about what art should be returns or the shadow of obscurity covers the idea forever.

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Emerson, a small sculpture

“Emerson”, painted steel, 13 x 10 x 9 Inches, 2018

Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American transcendentalist writer, wrote an essay titled Circles, in which he discusses the metaphor of a circle as a means to understand becoming or evolution. In the essay, Emerson quotes St. Agustine, ” describing the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere, and its circumference nowhere.” (Emerson, Lectures and Essays, Library of America, pg. 403) The idea of the circle is not a new one. The circle is mythologized in many cultures and used, for instance, to describe fidelity, as in a wedding ring.

” Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.” (Emerson, Lectures and Essays, Library of America, pg. 403)

The circle has become an essential element in my sculptural work because it has this rich and diverse connection to the metaphors that describe the human condition. Heidegger talks about becoming in his great work “Being and Time,” in which he posits that human life is essentially a becoming and that becoming is not finite, it continues throughout our life, and that further, we have a responsibility concerning that becoming.

Emerson, a small sculpture, inaugurated a process that continues. I have created a series of works based upon the visual image of the circle and implied circles as well, in the form of arcs. Emerson has been sold, and the new owners can revisit the visual metaphor and the thoughts of Emerson, Heidegger, and any other connection the circle has and what it means again and again. Meaning is constructed for us and by us, and the importance we bring to our lives matters. How and what we use to construct that meaning and the interpretations we glean are what make up our perspective.

I continue to make work that inspires me in positive and enriching ways and hope that my clients, no, my partners, in the construction of meaning and hence the collective world we share will move us in positive directions.

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“Tomoe Gozen” 9.5 x 8 x 7 feet, painted steel, 2017

“Tomoe Gozen” was a mythical female samurai. The story goes that Tomoe Gozen was beautiful and a fearless fighter and commanded an army of 1000 male samurai. The samurai have always interested me because of their commitment to things like honor and service. Bushido, the samurai code, includes integrity, respect, courage, honor, compassion, honesty and sincerity, and duty and loyalty.

The interesting point is that in Japanese culture, they honor females in ways the West does not. Tomoe Gozen is one example; the Shinto sun goddess Amerratsu the highest deity in Japanese mythology and religion, is also female. Filtered through the misogyny of the West, the samurai are all seen as macho males acting in the same way the movies and television portray John Wayne characters.

I felt a strong connection to Tomoe Gozen for many reasons, and that is why I created this sculpture to honor this essential female deity and model. Past mistakes need to be revealed, and we need to consider them to create a world that reflects the justice we tout as primary. We need to walk the walk we talk about.

Although this sculpture is abstract, the title leads us into the discoures surrounding the failings of modern life and returns us to the reality we have been convinced is not our reality.

“Tomoe Gozen” is available to purchase if you wish to consider it as part of your collection. You can reach me at gregorys@gregorysteel.com for more information and pricing.

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Visual Art Like Music

“puddle” 13 x 18 x 10 inches, painted steel, 2021

Arthur Schopenhauer writes in “The World as Will and Idea.”

“This is why the effect of music is so much more powerful and penetrating than that of the other arts, for they speak only of shadows, but it speaks of the thing itself.”

Ideas of the beautiful and sublime have lost the interest of the masses. Instead, we are encouraged to focus our attention and desires on political and social things. For Arthur Schopenhauer, music rises above the mundane and pedestrian practices we see on the evening news. Music, according to Schopenhauer, is transcendent; it brings us to the thing itself. The thing itself is reality, unfiltered by the culture or conditions imposed by our circumstances.

I try and make art like music. Something that is not grounded in the muck and mire of the everyday but helps raise our consciousness to new levels. Art should be something that tries to reveal our better angels. Much contemporary art shines a light on the failings of our humanity with no attempt at betterment, only mocking symbols of the inhumanity we display. We are, can, and should do better.

The artwork “puddle” is a small sculpture that is, in essence, a memory and symbol of the playfulness of youth. A time of innocence and freedom before the world demanded we act and become world-affirming creatures. “Puddle” attempts to be a point of focus and contemplation of times before we gave ourselves to worldly systems and inserted our being into the great machine.

If you would like to include “puddle” in your collection, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at gregorys@gregorysteel.com for more information and pricing.


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Work as Prayer

“prayer” 32 x 30 x 21, painted steel, 2021

It occurred to me why making art is so very important to me. Making art is a way for me to speak to the divine, to project a message to the infinite; making art is prayer. What is a prayer but a statement about a wish or a hope for ourselves or humanity? Inside organized religions, there is an identity and protocol for prayer and a structure that fits the ideology of the particular religion. That is not the type of prayer I speak of here. Instead, prayer, in the way I mean, is more open and free from constraint and can be applied to the world in ways my personal philosophy understands the world and existence.

In many ways, art, philosophy, and religion all deal with the same issues humans face in the existence of uncertainty. Prayer inside each of these is attempting to deal with the problems of being human. The differences exist because of the complexity and diverse nature of human existence and the competing set of illusions and desires driving our passions. Some people go to church; I go to my studio.

I understand that this is an odd distinction, but it seems to fit and make sense after a lifetime of creating art and wondering why I was doing it. This artwork seemed to make itself without my help and without remembering the creation or process by which it manifested. I titled it “prayer” because it reminded me of my moments in still mediation, unconnected to the conditions of the world. The sculpture is like meditation and is distinct from the typical social and politically driven work with which we are all familiar. It is a prayer that I hope can transport someone beyond the problematic life of the modern world into solitude that can foster a reconnection with the true self and a straightforward path to a life of beauty and joy.

“Prayer” is still available if you want to include it in your collection. You can reach me at gregorys@gregorysteel.com for more information or purchase.

Thank you!

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Shugoshin (Guardian deity)

Shugoshin (guardian deity) 55 x 17 x 17 inches, 2017

Shugoshin, a Japanese word that translates to “guardian deity” in English was inspired by the idea of a watchful spirit guiding and protecting us from negative influences. The collection of pipes bound together reflects the strength of a group rather than an individual element. The idea of a spiritual community and the strength we as individuals can draw from that relationship creates a sense of empowerment in a world fraught with pitfalls.

Shugoshin was constructed from steel pipes and rebar. Steel has inherent strength and durability. We can sense that even though the patina of paint. A strong angel figure watching over us has long been a staple in religions of all sorts. It is important conceptually because we feel a desire to acknowledge this protection and to be responsible to honor that protection by being aware and not taking it for granted. We learn to respect that guardianship and in turn respect that relationship by not overstepping or taking advantage.

Shugoshin serves to remind us of that responsibility however we vision it. Whether it is directly from a community, individual, or relationship with the mysterious. Being honorable means acting in that way even when no one is watching or our acts never become noticed. We honor the commitment to the guardian because of our respect for existence and humanity.

If you are interested in including Shugoshi in your collection it is available. You can contact me at gregorys@gregorysteel.com.

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This work is titled “reach”. It comes from the feeling we have when we find ourselves at a limit and we have to decide if we take the risk of continuing to reach for the result we want or not. As an artist, I am familiar with this feeling. It happens almost every time I am in the act of creating something. This feeling is a partner in my making, I am not sure where I would be without it.

One thing about this feeling I have found curious in my years of teaching is how many students falter in the presence of this uncertainty. It has become my primary goal in teaching art to help students overcome and become a friend with this uncertainty. Without developing this relationship with the unknown there can be no progress, no art, no you.

I wonder how many people have discovered this? Uncertainty is an integral part of my art-making process. I can’t do it alone, I love uncertainty and the chaos it stirs. I have come to trust the feelings associated with uncertainty because even if there is a failure the lessons gained are profound. I have learned more from uncertainty than from any course of study or conversations with educated people. I assume this means uncertainty and chaos are my teachers and we have and continue to have a powerful and meaningful relationship.

“Reach” is currently available for purchase. If you would like to include it in your collection please reach out to me at gregorys@gregorysteel.com.

Thank you


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spirit path

“spirit path” painted steel and limestone, 26 x 12 x 13, 2018

“Spirit path” was another work that moved me back to making sculptures. It was just an idea and then became what you see in the image above. I had no idea what or how I would make the piece; I just started and let the visual guide my progress. I still have no idea what I thought when I created it, but I don’t believe that thinking is a good way to make art. Thought has a place certainly in writing, philosophy, science, and other disciplines. I don’t believe that thinking plays much of a part in creating aesthetic objects, nor should it.

I still look at this sculpture in wonder, and it continues to feed my desire to make aesthetic objects—purposeless objects for quiet contemplation. Maybe I find the need for quiet reflection, but I also think others need quiet time to consider the more profound questions of existence. My creative life works like this, and each new piece pushes me forward to another and another. Looking at and making new work create a synergy in which my spirit moves me to create the next visual manifestation. I feel as though the less I force myself to contribute, the better the sculpture becomes.

An odd claim coming from an artist: I remember reading a quote from the great Charlie Parker, “Master your instrument. Master the music. And then forget all that bullshit and just play.” 
— Charlie Parker

Since graduate school, this quote continues to inspire my work, and I used it in my thesis presentation at the University of Michigan. The idea to master a particular set of skills, then allow those skills to exist and manifest the real intention seems like what the goal of art should be. I feel most at home in letting the visual guide my visual work, all of the noise is as Charlie Parker put so eloquently, bullshit.

“Spirit path” is currently available to include in your collection. If you are interested in purchasing this piece you can reach me at gregorys@gregorysteel.com. You can also see more work at www.gregorysteel.com.

Thank You


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