The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Piper’s abstract reality

College of Business alumnus to debut art at solo gallery
Self-portrait of Steven Piper, a recent Marquette graduate and artist. His first gallery debuts Feb. 24. Photo courtesy of Steven Piper.

As a child, Steven Piper didn’t have a knack for drawing. He never saw himself as “creative,” an identity reserved for the kids who excelled in art class.

Fast-forward over a decade later, and the recent Marquette graduate is about to host his first art exhibition just two months after finishing school. Feb. 24, the digital artist, photographer and traveler will be displaying a range of his artwork in a solo gallery.

During his time at Marquette, Piper, who goes by his artist name, “Pipe,” studied in the College of Business Administration. He said it wasn’t until he was 18, during a study abroad trip to France, that his photography and art skills developed.

“Ever since then, I didn’t like what I was doing in school, but I kept doing photography as a passion on the side,” Piper said. “I wanted to transfer, I wanted to switch majors, but I just stuck with what I was doing and pushed my artwork.”

Over time, Piper’s art evolved. What used to be primarily aesthetic pieces shifted to digital art with a message, but the content of Piper’s work still varies.

On his website, he chooses to split his content into categories such as profiles, black-and-white images, abstract digital pieces and travel photography.

“I try to touch different aesthetics and touch different styles of artwork,” he said. “I have a favorite for every category.”

In some projects, Piper will take a photograph and “destroy” it with Photoshop. His use of digital distortion transforms original pieces of photography into dreamlike landscapes. He’s used pictures of human subjects, from strangers on a Lyon, France, street corner to images of his closest friends, as starting points for art projects.

Taylor Smith, a senior in the College of Communication and a close friend of Piper’s, was featured in one of his photography pieces. He said sometimes Piper will take pictures and not tell subjects what he plans to do with them.

“He took a picture of me and was like, ‘I’m going to make this into something,'” Smith said. “He put my headshot in with, like, eight other people and posted those headshots as one photo.”

Piper’s creativity and diversity is what Smith admires most about his friend’s artwork.

“Everything that he does, to my knowledge, is all self-taught and self inspired,” Smith said. “It all comes from him. And I think that’s pretty cool.”

Despite his self-taught endeavors, Piper noted a lack of artistic outlets while studying on campus. He’d visit the Milwaukee Art Museum, but didn’t have the chance to show his work in a student gallery like his friends at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. Piper hopes to reach out to students who may not have a lot of exposure to visual art.

“When you’re a freshman or a sophomore and you stay on campus, it’s kind of like a bubble,” Piper said. “I want students … to get out of their comfort zone and experience something different. Once they experience it, they might get more interested in (art).”

To make the idea of an art gallery seem less exclusive, he structured his upcoming exposition to feel more like a gathering.

“I feel like, in the social media age, everyone is starting to have an artistic desire or passion,” Piper said. “I want to try to bring that out of certain people and inspire them to maybe do more about the art they want to create.”

Besides Piper’s personal attempts to appeal to student interest, some professors have picked up on the alumnus’s artistic strides.

Linda Menck, a professional in residence of the College of Communication, had Piper in her Introduction to Visual Communication class last semester. She plans to encourage this semester’s introductory class to attend the gallery next Friday.

Menck, whose intro class is made up of a mix of majors, said that her students are often hesitant to show their creative side.

“Usually, when you’re talking about business or engineering (students) … they usually see themselves as very left-brained,” Menck said. “My theory is that you can teach yourself to be creative.”

During the first week of classes last semester, Menck passed out an attendance sheet for students to sign, showing that they were present. When she got the paper back, she saw that Piper had drawn a small image of a smoking pipe next to his name.

That icon that Menck vividly remembers is one that Piper uses as his artist signature to this day.

When Piper reached out to Menck regarding his artwork, she thought of other students on campus, just like him, who feel that they don’t have the proper outlet. She said she hopes that more students from all colleges can feel confident enough to identify their interest in art.

“I know they’re out there,” Menck said. “Even in the visual communication class that I teach, students produce such great work, and we don’t celebrate that in addition to the more academic work they do.”

The show will be at Eleven25 at Pabst, from 5-10 p.m. Admission is only $5, and free wine will be provided for those 21 and older.

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