What is a monument? Who gets one? And how do we memorialize the past?
These are the questions contemporary artist Steve Locke is uniquely positioned to address, having made a career pioneering and reimagining what a monument, a memorial, could and should be.
Amid a nationwide reckoning with racial injustice, in Charleston the grand John C. Calhoun statue was removed from its 115-foot perch above Marion Square on June 3, 2020, after years of controversy and debate. Its removal, like the removal of historical monuments across the country, has reframed the way we engage with all monuments, markers, and memorials, insisting we take a hard look at how we memorialize the past. With this conversation at the forefront, it is our privilege to announce the New York-based, Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, and former artist-in-residence to the city of Boston as our 2021 Distinguished Lecture Speaker.
Steve Locke has shed light on the limited ways in which we, as a society, often think about the function and figural content of a monument or memorial. In 2018 he proposed a memorial on the site of one of Boston’s most famous landmarks Faneuil Hall, erected in 1743 by its namesake Peter Faneuil, a wealthy merchant who made his fortune from the slave trade. Entitled Auction Block Memorial at Faneuil Hall, the 10 ft-by-16 ft bronze platform was to be heated year round to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or the temperature of the human body and dedicated to those enslaved Africans and African-Americans trafficked along the triangular trade. Working with city officials and art institutions to implement his bold ideas, he has firsthand experience with how disputes over monuments can be exploited and politicized to the detriment of the community at large. He also demonstrates how essential it is that artists show us the way forward.
Born in 1963 in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Steve Locke received his M.F.A. in 2001 from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. In 2020, he was awarded the prestigious Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and is currently a tenured professor of fine arts at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.
Solo exhibitions include the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum among others. At the Gardner, he created a public site for mourning and healing entitled Three Deliberate Grays for Freddie (A Memorial for Freddie Gray), a 25-year old Black American man whose death while in the custody of the Baltimore Police sparked public outrage. Most recently, Steve Locke has submitted a design for a memorial tribute to the victims of slavery at the Tuileries Garden in Paris.
Tickets on sale late summer.