Steven Cabral is a Boston-based painter whose work has been shown throughout the Northeast. Cabral holds a BFA in painting from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and an MFA from Lesley University College of Art and Design. He currently lives and works in Somerville, MA.
"My paintings investigate the psychology of painting through an exploration of patterns, hard edges, soft edges, geometric and organic shapes, and color experimentation to form new meanings and narrations. The awareness of inner dialogue has strengthened my working process, allowing for a chain reaction of thoughts and ideas focused on mark-making to form the composition. This listening process clarifies painterly space, including the risks I need to take to break the visual grammar by using thin and thick paint, shapes, and colors. The elements explore how light and dark create a sense of mystery, mysticism, depth, and risk. I explore and layer a new palette of contemporary hues, and allow my past geometric abstractions to take on more flowing, painterly, and undefined shapes. Combining the freehand production of geometric shapes of squares, circles, triangles, and lines with undefinable biomorphic shapes has led me to a more focused desire to construct an aesthetic that creates challenging and unconventional viewing experiences for the viewers."
Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.
I grew up in Somerville, near the Boston area. As a kid, I've always been into crafts and arts, but it never crossed my mind that making a living doing them was possible. When I first started my undergraduate career at Northeastern, I majored in geology; even though I enjoyed learning about science, I knew my heart was not in it. Instead of continuing my education, I decided to take a sabbatical from college to explore what was out there.
A year into my break, a few friends invited me to check out open studios in the South End, Boston, and I just remember being blown away by the art and that people did this for a living. At that moment, I decided I wanted to be an artist. I spent a year making art and understanding myself as an artist. After a year of practice, I pursued a BFA at MassArt, which was a wonderful and meaningful experience. I met so many amazing people, and the professors were incredible. After getting my BFA, I spent quite some time working and refining my practice and spent years showing around the Boston area.
In 2019, I pursued my MFA at Lesley University College of Art and Design, which had been my goal for quite some time.
What kind of work are you currently making?
I currently make abstract work that bridges geometric and organic languages into one cohesive composition. Materiality is a huge component in creating and executing an idea. Primarily, I work with acrylic, but I've also incorporated fabric, paper, mesh, crayons, flashe, and markers. Using these materials helps me redefine what space is and how space can be created. I want to convey that painterly space is not contained on the canvas's surface but for the audience to visually imagine that it expands outside the canvas.
Furthermore, using different materials opens up the possibility of surprises. The surprises in the process are the best part of art making. Additionally, on the symbolic level, Ineffable patterns is a continuous series that explores personal loss; the series allowed me to process my grief while attempting to create and access a world that had become inaccessible.
The patterns, hues, and spaces are responses to triggers within memories and an attempt toward a more resolved understanding of my past. Ineffable Patterns points to the impossibility of this task: the ultimate inability to access the space behind the surface, the fickle nature of memory, and the hard lessons learned about the brief timeline of existence.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
This is a tough question because my studio day is always different. Some days are super productive, and I'm on a roll, but other days, nothing happens. Sometimes there’s a plan, and I have specific goals I want to accomplish on a piece.
On other days, I purposefully enter my studio space with no intentions. I try to approach the work as if it were new/blank. When I’m stuck, conflicted, or just not feeling like painting, I try to do some writing to help me clarify what I'm making.
Over the years, I've learned to accept both types of days for what they are. I often play music or podcast to get myself in the zone, but lately, listening to podcasts has been helping me get into the zone. Podcasts help me block out my chaotic inner voices and work externally.
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
At the moment, I'm revisiting Agnes Martin's work. My work has changed so much over the years, and lately, I have been working so fast in my studio because of upcoming shows and deadlines. Agnes Martin reminds me that I need to slow down and listen to my practice.
Now that summer is here, and I'm taking a break from the studio; I'm retraining myself to slow down at a healthy pace. I'm hoping to reintroduce some quiet/stillness into my work. Other artists I look at for inspiration are Carrie Moyer, Amy Sillman, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, and Erika Ranee.
Where can we find more of your work?
You can find my updated work and behind-the-scenes process on my Instagram account.
I have an upcoming solo show at the Painting Center in NYC. The show will run from Sept 7 -30, with an opening reception on Thursday, Sept 7th, from 5 - 7 pm, and a closing reception on Saturday, 30th (time TBA). You can also check out my website at stevenjcabral.com