Nashville Visual Artists-Stephen Watkins

When I walked into Stephen’s studio I was blown away. Lining the walls were numerous faces staring point blank at me. What was disarming about these faces is that they were much bigger than me, at least 8 feet tall. As I stood face to face-no pun intended-with these larger-than life creations, I felt all of sudden very small and vulnerable. And perhaps it was me reflecting what I saw in the paintings around me-nakedness of gaze and sheer vulnerability. Sometimes Stephen uses graphite and paint in these renditions, sometimes he even uses a blowtorch but no matter what medium is used they all communicate the same strong personal and mysterious thread that ties us together in being human. 

I hung out with Stephen in his studio and got to see him at work. To the sounds of Trip Hop and the light of a utility lamp, he set to the job of bringing another face, another emotion to life.

Nashville Visual Artists  is a photo documentary that profiles visual artists living and working in Nashville. The purpose of this project is to bring awareness to the strong visual arts scene here. Nashville is famous for its music culture but a lot of people aren't familiar with its rich visual arts culture. By interviewing artists and documenting their process in the studio, I hope to draw more attention to the visual arts community here.

hat is the theme of your work?

I would say the theme of my work has to do with making a connection with the viewer. It’s about showing that though we are all different, with different lives and different backgrounds that we all share the common thread of humanity and all the emotions that come with being human. Also, my work is about the experience that you have the first impressions when meeting someone.

What inspires your work?

Music is a huge inspiration for me, and I often listen to music when I work. It helps me in the process of creation. I can also be inspired by the wind, rustling through the trees, or other sounds of nature. I am also influenced by my religious upbringing, stories and parables that I grew up hearing. Besides that, I am inspired by other artists like Van Gogh, Pollock, and especially Basquiat because he went against the establishment. 

What are the goals for your work?

First and foremost I want to make a connections with the viewer. If I feel that I’ve elicited some sort of emotional response from them, then I feel I have been successful. Continuing to show my work in galleries and other spaces is very important to for me. 

What are your thoughts on the Nashville Arts Scene?

It’s very supportive and I think great things are starting to happen here. It’s growing and gaining more national attention. 

Stephen will be exhibiting his work during this month’s Art Crawl on February 7 at 40 AU in the Arcade.