Artist Andrew Steiger’s work is as difficult to describe as it is to forget. He creates illustrations and paintings mixed with emotional outbursts of scribbles, scars, markings, and washes of color. His themes often include indigenous cultures and wildlife. Recently, we spoke with Steiger, who will work in Yellowstone this month as an Artist-in-Residence, about his distinctive works of art, his creative process, and how he hopes to spend his free time in the park.
Yellowstone Forever: Your artwork is very unique. How would you describe it?
Andrew Steiger: I call the works “Cultural Landscapes,” figurative illustrations and paintings that are informed by experience, history, and a fascination with the wild tension that surrounds the natural world. Sometimes it’s a good relationship, sometimes it’s not so good.
Representational figures are often vandalized with emotional outbursts of color washes or territorial marks. Cultural figures are represented in a light that I feel they deserve (good or bad). I’m often exploring and expressing deeper emotional reactions and connections to personal experiences.
Everybody knows what a rattlesnake looks like, or a buffalo, but I challenge myself to convey how those animals make me feel. And if I’m honest with those feelings and tuned in, then we get something good.
I also like the idea that my work draws you in—there are lots of little details and gestures that you only see if you look closely for them, which can be compared to one’s relationship with nature. Imagine lying on your stomach and looking at the dirt; at first it’s just brown texture but within minutes of this new microscopic focus, that 6-inch patch of earth is host to countless living things that all need each other.
YF: Many of your works seem to tell a story. How do you approach a new piece—are you trying to communicate a specific series of events, or is it more a feeling you are trying to evoke?
AS: One thing I’ve learned is that I have no business telling anybody how to feel. My job is to be honest with myself. My interest is in creating conversations.
The creative process always starts with feelings. Feelings contain colors and if those colors live together in my head in a good way, we get to begin! It could be that I got to watch a turkey vulture eating, or just read about a festival in Texas that celebrates the annual community killing of rattlesnakes, or I simply am into an idea of a new kind of camouflage and have to work it out on paper. It’s a place to pray and a place to explore.
Sometimes I’m trying to work out a problem, or a string of events tied to something I care about. It sort of turns into a collage of experience and emotion, but I tend to gravitate towards very “charged” subject matter. But that’s mostly because of my interest in equality and justice. So narratives surround everything. They have to.
YF: What do you hope to see or do while you are in the park?
AS: I’m very interested in high mountain ice patches (archaeology), watching things eat other things, bones that arrived at a location naturally. Wildlife monitoring systems are extremely interesting to me. I just want to feel very small in a place that is very powerful. It will be like living in Where the Wild Things Are.
Steiger will be in Yellowstone August 11-25, 2018. Learn more about the Artists-in-Residence program and Steiger’s schedule here.