The wit and wiles of Steven Jay

Steven Jay Athanas has been on the Toledo scene for decades in one medium or another. In a casual conversation while hanging out in his living room, we talked about how his past experiences and interests have worked their way into his visual art. Even as good friends we had never discussed what was driving his work behind all that sculpted wire and weathered wood and his witty, illustrated text. I wanted to know why he does what he does the way he does it.  So I asked him.

Athanas's first creative pursuit was playing with a band called Jello when he was in the eighth grade. He later went on to perform as lead singer and songwriter with several popular Toledo bands (Raisin Band, The Best, Loved by Millions) and still rocks with the renowned Homewreckers.  His offbeat sense of humor, both on stage and in his lyrics, also entertains in the whimsically illustrated, nonsensical texts he calls "pomes".  Many of his musings, inspired by doodles in his always-present sketchbook, consider such stuff as the life of an oven mitt, or tell irreverent tales like that of Ali Gae, an alligator of ill repute (check out the plethora of nonsense in his sketchbook on   During his student teaching days, an art project peaked Athanas' interest in wire sculpting, which resulted in his 'cuppas' (wire cups of light) and virtual aquariums; both are still in his repertoire of work. He was further encouraged when a friend's mother told him that his work reminded her of drotars—the tinkers of Slovakia—who went door to door with spools of wire to make household tools for people. This association landed him in an art exhibit at the Slovakian Embassy in Washington, DC.  His admiration of renowned wire sculptor Alexander Calder later influenced his work when he  began to create stylized sculptures and dancing mobiles of wire and colored paper "drawings" that visually tell bizarre stories on subjects meaningful to him.
Since his work is decidedly rustic; Athanas favors media such as rusted wire, weathered gnarly wood, clay and rough, handmade paper. In college, he once even used the transformation of a molding piece of bread in an
art project.

Athanas openly declared his aversion to perfection in our interview, "My work is gruff and primitive—I celebrate imperfection. Decay is change—something that we all have to face within nature. I think nature taking its natural course… there is a beauty, an element of art in that."

Athanas' work delivers his unconventional way of thinking to his audience with a wink, a smile and a playful nudge to experience his take on the world.  Whether he's performing musically or visually, Steve Athanas is always amusing.

Partake in the talents of Steven Jay at the opening reception of his solo show, Addendum to Zilch (A to Z), at Flatlander's Art Gallery on US 23 just east of Blissfield, Mi. on July 27th 5-8pm where he will also be performing with the Homewreckers. View the exhibit showing until September 7th.

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