This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper
Steve Haweeli is a Long Island native most commonly affiliated with his public relations firm, WordHampton. Over a decade ago, in December 2007, Haweeli began an artistic journey through painting. His contemporary abstracts, “with a debt to the great abstract expressionists,” have been featured in curated events such as ArtHamptons, New York Art Expo, and the Affordable Art Fair.
How has faith played a part in your life?
It’s a major part of my day. I spend a good hour every morning reading, journaling, praying, and occasionally meditating.
I also write out a gratitude list of five things I’m grateful for every day. I have been doing that for a couple of years; it guarantees you walk out the door with a bounce in your step.
I also practice 15 yoga positions every morning. Every so often, I change things up. Once, I read the entire Psalter (Book of Psalms).
Why did you have an exhibit St. Luke’s?
I’m a cradle Episcopalian, even though I’m also a closet Baptist. So, St. Luke’s was the logical choice when I landed here [after living in Williamsburg]. It’s a very diverse congregation—locals, weekenders, transplants.
I’m also a huge fan of its summer satellite church, St. Peter’s, in Barnes Landing. There’s a 5:30 PM Saturday service that is very “low church.” As a result, it is an incredibly casual and honest service.
Describe the significance of water in your work.
Water is integral to my work. I’m a water guy: I stare at it, fish in it, swim in it, and I used to boat in it. In the summer, I start my day with a dip at Maidstone Beach Park. Every weekend, I’m at the ocean.
It’s about baptism. We come into Lent preparing for not only the crucifixion (Good Friday) but also the resurrection (Easter), which is the reaffirmation of our faith as cited in the Nicene Creed (“On the third day, he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures . . .”) and that statement is also repeated in the Baptismal Covenant, “On the third day he rose again . . .”
When one is baptized, one is either immersed in or has water poured on him or her. Biblically, water represents the Word of God or the knowledge of God and it can be said that the ocean symbolizes the beginning of life on Earth.
Why have a show during Lent?
I’ve been thinking about this show for a couple of years, because I had all these cross works. In fact, one piece, 124 Martyrs, was started on Palm Sunday and finished on Easter Sunday; I recited the Jesus Prayer quietly to myself about 80 percent of the time. I figure, what better time to show crosses than Lent?
What artwork or artist inspires you?
Joan Mitchell, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler. My three favorite pieces (right now) are Mitchell’s Ladybug, de Kooning’s A Tree in Naples, and Pollock’s Number 1.
What is the overall message in your work?
I am enthralled by water—its taste, feel, expanse and color—anchored by God, the sheer depth of God. I am grateful to be alive in this world, but angry that I will have to leave it one day.
What’s your painting process?
It completely depends on the painting. For instance, one piece I was convinced was done, but I wasn’t sure. So, it sat there for months, perhaps four or five. (I already had put a good six weeks into the piece.) I then returned to the piece, and added several more layers over another six weeks—so in that case it was [worked on for] over six months.
I use a lot of blues, blacks, and a bit of yellow, but also black, gray, and white. It really depends on what I’m painting, because I’ve used just about every color. I love pink, too! I use palette knives, trowels, the ends of paint stirrers, some brushes—sometimes stiff brushes.
Paint yourself/soul in a single image and describe it.
There’s a piece of me—a lot of me—in every work I’ve created. That said, the “me” painting is big—maybe six by 10 feet. It features color over color (blues, orange, black, pink, white), but underneath a good part of the painting runs a dark line, a knot, a perceived skirmish. That’s the part I’m trying to address with prayer.