A eulogy for Steve Walker, a renowned Canadian artist and illustrator (1961 – 2012)
|Since the Canadian media has so far failed to recognize the passing of a renowned Canadian talent, I have taken it upon myself to write this eulogy for a man I didn’t know, but whom I admire greatly for the following reasons:|
In his biography he comes across as a shy, unassuming person–as most extraordinarily talented people do–for in his own words,“I have always been inclined to let my work speak for itself, believing that should I need to explain it, I have perhaps failed.”
He was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and although his artistic talent was recognized as early as the first grade, his primary ambition was to be an actor, i.e.:
“Despite my artistic talent I was determined to be an actor “when I grew up”. At the age of nineteen, I moved to Toronto, Canada to study theatre at university. Four years later I graduated from university, moved into my own apartment, and embarked on a career as an actor and, of course, waiter.”
It was about then that he discovered his sexual orientation, which seems to have been an evolutionary process as apposed to a revelation—a not uncommon occurrence.
“I remember feeling a strange sense of elation upon having survived childhood, a rural environment, education, and the knowledge that my sexual orientation, (which was never a mystery or problem to me personally), would forever cause some people who never met me and would never know me, to hate me and others like me.”
However all this was about to change in the 1970s when the term “A.I.D.S.” started to circulate around the gay community, not only in Toronto but around the world, and so he turned away from acting in an attempt to “find a cure for the hatred, fear, and ignorance that surrounded so many young men around the world as they lay in hospital beds and drew the last breaths of unfinished lives,” and so he began to paint.
Never having painted before, he nonetheless taught himself and began creating paintings, not about gay or homosexual men, per se, but about the things all human beings share.
“Themes of love, attraction, hope, despair, loneliness, the beauty of sky, the perfection of a horizon, the power of a person touching another were given life on pieces of canvas. I created images that came from a place of truth. I tried to make sense of and give order to a world that seemed to know neither.
“It simply never occurred to me to paint about themes in any other context than that of my own life as a person who happens to be gay. I had never had a problem relating to work created by heterosexuals in a heterosexual context. Why should I create paintings whose context was anything other than the truth of my life as a gay man?”
From there he began to display his works in gay restaurants and bars around Toronto—I remember very distinctly seeing some of these at the “Les Cavaliers” club on Church Street (now the “Gay Village”—and in a short while he was exhibiting and selling his work in high end mainstream galleries throughout North America, and reproductions of his work throughout the world.
An epilogue in his own words,
“I see my work as a documentation, an interpretation, a crystallization of singular moments rendered in line, color, light, shadow, using a hundred brushes, a thousand colors, and a million brushstrokes. I strive to make people stop, if only a moment, think and actually feel something. My paintings contain as many questions as answers.
“I hope that in its’silence, the body of my work has given a voice to my life, the lives of others, and in doing so, the dignity of all people.”
Requiestat in pace, Steve Walker. I mourn your passing as a gay man; as an admirer of great talent; as a Canadian; and as a person.
[See also: “Elisa – My reviews and Ramblings” for and excellent tribute]