Biography Of Gregory Steel


Sarah Evilsizor

Gregory Steel was born in Detroit and raised by his maternal grandparents in the richly diverse neighborhoods of the Motor City's East Side. Steel was encouraged by his grandmother's innovative use of ordinary materials in constructing unique objects and arrangements from an early age. Her novel approaches to environmental resources and her support positively influenced Steel's artistic development. As a self-taught artist, Steel held jobs in various disciplines to support his work, but after many years of making art on his own, he realized he needed a serious art education.

Attending school part-time and working full-time, Steel received a BFA from The College for Creative Studies in Detroit and an MFA in New Genres from the University of Michigan. After completing his studies, he took a position at The College for Creative Studies, teaching sculpture and experimental media. Steel is a Fine Arts & New Media Professor at Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana. Gregory completed his Ph.D. In philosophy from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. His dissertation is titled The Sublime: An Existential and Ontological Alliance with Mystery.

The art of ideas is fundamental to Steel's working process and is at the heart of his work. For Steel, art and life are not separate spheres. Instead, his art is only an extension of who he is and thus is fully integrated into his life. Steel soon came to depend on his instinct that art is an internal process, navigating academic discourse and the Modernist dilemma. His influences include David Smith, Mark DeSuvero, Joeseph Wesner, Jay Holland, and Isamu Noguchi. Experience, rather than individual-created objects, is foremost in Steel's work. To this end, Steel employs a variety of materials and techniques in his art, including video, object making, digital imaging, book publishing, installation, performance, and innovative technology.

A brush with cancer in 1998 affected his work in many ways, giving him a higher focus and sense of urgency to complete his life's work. As an idea artist, he views the various materials he uses as merely a way to fulfill the function of the art. Through this diversity, he resists easy categorization. Steel's work cannot be pigeonholed because it is integrated with his life, and as such, it is a richly layered and evolving experience. His concerns about the human condition, social change, and hope for humankind are evident regardless of his final product. Whether collaborating in a groundbreaking physiological monitoring system with Cybernet Systems of Ann Arbor, creating intimate and humorous tableaus replete with miniature figures in outlandish settings, or constructing a monumental steel sculpture, his art emerges as thoughtful and timely. Steel's work has been shown across the United States and Europe, most recently in China, Russia, London, and Barcelona, Spain.