Long Beach Focus

Steve Fawley

Steve Fawley at his studio. Photo by Bennet Perez.

Compound: You embody the values of Compound: diverse, dynamic, and open. Does living in Long Beach contribute to this?

Steve Fawley: Yes. Long Beach is a great city. I believe Long Beach is one of the most culturally diverse cities in America. As kids, we would spend our mornings at the beach surfing then our afternoons skating in alleys looking at graffiti. We are exposed to so much culture—Asian markets, Mexican restaurants, Buddhist temples, Japanese Gardens, mid-century architecture, flea markets, queer biker bars, the Port, etc.

C: What are you presently working on in the studio?

SF: I’m working on a secret creative project that I can’t talk too much about, but it will be released shortly. The only thing I can share is, ELS. It will make sense soon.

I’m working on two smaller paintings at the moment, which are meant to interact as one. These paintings are based on the thought that the silence between notes in a piece of music is just as important to that piece of music as the sound of the notes played. I’m interested in the balance—the yin and the yang, dark and light, sound and silence.

C: In this particular moment of solitude, what are you listening to? What are you reading?

SF: Lots of Miles Davis and Nicola Cruz. My friends who are DJ’s are constantly sending me their mixes, which I love.

from Nicola Cruz

I love electronic music like the new Little Dragon album that just dropped and always LCD Sound System.

As far as reading, I’m currently bouncing between The Tao of WU by The RZA, The Heart of Listening by Hugh Milne and Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr.

C: How are you processing our present circumstances? How is it directly affecting your art-making?

SF: Day by day. If I overthink, I get a bit overwhelmed. More time in the garden and the studio than on social media is working for me. Seeing that most of my work (craniosacral, curating, collaborations) is on pause, in all honesty not too much has changed for me because I have spent so much time in the studio for so long. I’m always isolated in a way. I can spend eight-plus hours a day for weeks on end in the studio when I’m really busy, so being alone is nothing new for me. I could never have imagined that 2020 would be what it has become. I have been reflecting a lot on Mother Nature during these times. Nature is King and Queen. Nature is in charge.

C: What are some of the immediate needs of the community in this current climate?

SF: LOVE. Lots of love, compassion, patience and good antimicrobial, plant based, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, vegan hand soap! Wash Your Hands!

C: How do your artistic and healing practices intersect?

SF: My artistic and healing practices intersect at the posterior base of my occipital ridge, where my skull meets my spine. I believe this is where the soul enters as it makes its way to the pineal gland (the seat of the soul). When thinking of art, creating art, or doing craniosacral, my creative and intuitive direction comes specifically from that place, the 4th ventricle, the portal.

Sometimes the creative download comes in like a bolt of lightning while other times it’s like a slow simmer that can last days, weeks. Time to think. Thinking about creating. I typically see the painting in its finished form before putting brush to canvas.

The download swirls around my brain, down to my heart, down my arms, and out of my hands. It may sound strange, but it’s true. I feel creating art and doing bodywork are inseparable as both mediums can inspire, heal, and shift one’s conscious, thought process, and nervous system. It’s all about achieving the “Still Point,” which allows the reset. With the reset comes the new and the infinite.

C: What can you share with us about the Sky Portal series?

SF: The mystery and magic of Sky Portals! Portals are gateways to the spiritual world. Gateways bridge the earthly realm to the spiritual cosmic dimension. Many ancient cultures speak of portals to other worlds and gateways to star systems where a “creator” resides. I was first turned onto portals when living in Big Sur by one of the Native elders. A few years later, I was once again told of the sky portal belief in Bali by a priest. I learned that many spiritual sites like temples are built where these portals exist. Through my portal paintings, I channel cosmic conversation and energy between the material world and the spiritual world, similar to a temple. The Sky Portal painting is a form of meditation for me. I never really know what the result will be, but I ask for guidance when I paint. Cosmic downloads radiate from each Sky Portal painting.

C: Your new work 1000 Years is a response to the fires in California and Australia. What can you share about your processing of urgent cultural, social, political, and ecological issues? How do you translate those issues into your painting?

SF: I first started the process in the early ’90s when I created the black and white lithograph of this image while studying Picasso’s Guernica in college. I felt it was my responsibility to create a painting documenting profound moments on our planet caused by climate change due to human impact on nature. When we reach a tipping point, I believe that nature self-corrects and challenges us. I think about the survival of the fittest, nature reclaiming earth. Will we be remembered for our freeways as other ancient civilizations are remembered for pyramids and other wonders of the world? Half the painting represents religion and the other half science.

C: What was the impetus for your children’s book Something Amazing?

SF: I have always tried to understand the idea of a “relationship.” Two people come together for a moment in time that can last a day, a year, a lifetime. From each friendship is a lesson to be learned. It is essential to know that time spent with one another is “something amazing.” I wanted to remind everyone that life is about friendship and love. Another significant influence on Something Amazing is Henry Miller. I spent a lot of time on the road for about twenty years living all over the world. Big Sur, New York, France, to name a few, and those were some of Miller’s favorite places. I always had a book by Miller in my bag. My original goal was to write a story similar to Tropic of Cancer, a story about my time on the road. While in Bali, I wrote a poem in a journal. After rereading it a few times I realized I had just written the plot for what would become a children’s book. It took me twelve years to birth those thirty-two pages of words and illustrations. By far, my most challenging creative endeavor yet.

C: What have been some of your most impactful collaborations?

SF: My brother and I collaborated when we both graduated from college, creating a skateboard company called FREERIDE Skateboards from 1994 to 1999. It was the first time I put my art and designs out in the world. It was a great learning experience having a business at such a young age. I always think about the joy those skateboards brought to so many people. In 2008 I was commissioned to paint a significant body of work for a boutique hotel in Long Beach. I decided to make all of the paintings while living in Bali for over six months. I’ll never forget that journey. It was such a creatively free time in my life. I painted all day and surfed perfect waves. Bali has unlimited creative resources, so whatever I can dream up, we can create with the help of so many talented Balinese artists.

From 2008-2020, I have been designing and hand-making teak sculptures for the SIMA Image Awards ceremony. The awards are the equivalent to the Oscars for the surf industry. It’s been such an honor to create those awards as they honor all the creatives of the surf industry.

As I think about it, every collaboration I have done over the past 30 years has been impactful to me because I was able to do what I LOVE, and by doing what I love I believe I have been able to inspire a lot of people and bring joy to the world.

STEVE FAWLEY

Artist, surfer, skater, healer, author, and entrepreneur Steve Fawley lives and works in Long Beach.