Creativity

Raez Comes Full Circle

Visiting Artist Show at Athens Arts’ new location

Athens Arts is pleased to announce that well known regional artist, Steven Raez, brings his show “Full Circle” to Athens Arts from now through Nov. 12.
Athens Arts is pleased to announce that well known regional artist, Steven Raez, brings his show “Full Circle” to Athens Arts from now through Nov. 12.
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Athens Arts has a new home at 216 E. Main St. The artists, director and board of directors cordially invite the public to stop by 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays or Fridays or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays to see the new space and celebrate the arts here in Montgomery County.

This fresh new space has many artistic elements in its design and execution for visitors to see. The work of several local artists is on display on the walls and in display cases. There is no charge. All the local artwork is for sale.

A fresh start means fresh perspectives and the first visiting artist is just that. Athens Arts is pleased to announce that well known regional artist, Steven Raez, brings his show “Full Circle” to Athens Arts from now through Nov. 12. Raez is based in Terre Haute where his art may be seen in many places including on an entire “aerosol wall” at Tolley’s Bar and Grill in north Terre Haute. His individual pieces have been commissioned by people around the world. He’s shipped work as far as Spain and India, chuckling that that gets expensive. During the pandemic, Raez’s work was part of an acclaimed international show online at the Greenpoint Gallery in Brooklyn.

The pandemic changed so much including how art circulates around the world. Raez is no stranger to people’s art circulating around the world both via the internet and also long before — on the side of freight trains. Anyone who has had to stop at a crossing and wait for a train to pass through is no stranger to the amazing art of graffiti. Long before art traveled everywhere via the internet art traveled lots of places on the sides of trains. Raez recalls fondly how he and his friend Jacob “painted lots of freights” out in the Pacific Northwest years ago. The “art of aerosol” has certainly transformed the art world in the past few decades. We in downtown Crawfordsville had the pleasure of watching the alley art next to the MCCF building transformed by Jenna Morello in 2021. It’s now one of the most popular go-sees in Crawfordsville.

Raez was born into this transforming arts world and started doing graffiti as a young person around the year 2000. While he was originally inspired by graffiti, as a mature artist, he has been influenced by “styles from graffiti to Renaissance.” As he notes, the art scene right now is amazingly eclectic with artists doing everything from hieroglyphics to any kind of fine art imaginable.

Raez himself likes to work collaboratively, both with music he listens to as he paints — he especially enjoys soul music; and, with other artists to conceive, collaborate and create large, even wall-size canvases like the one he did for Tolley’s. When the owner of the bar contacted him to see if he would like to collaborate with a couple of karaoke singers to do a mural — a 40-foot wall of art that would, in essence, be “song lyrics written up with aerosol,” he was game.

Now this was not to be simply words painted on a wall. Raez practices the highly skillful art of “layering” in which layers of paint that capture one one set of lyrics are laid down over and around the last layer of colored, curving words. You may view this creative process in action and condensed into a four-minute film on YouTube: “Steven Raez — Lyric Wall at Tolley’s Bar and Grill.”

Currently Raez is working on another mural at the juvenile detention center in Terre Haute. He hopes that some of the incarcerated youth may take notice and talk with him as he is working in spray paint to enliven their walls.

In a podcast with interviewer Watermelon Kimchee, Kimchee commented on the remarkable variety in Steven Raez’s work. While Raez works at a regular job, he is quick to say that “my life is art. Everything else is secondary.” He is always growing and building from his core base. “It’s my therapy and my practice,” he notes. Raez especially enjoys “building a show” as he has done for his first exhibit in Montgomery County.

For this exhibit, Raez has boldly gone in a direction that casts light on a subject too often ignored in public conversation — mental health. For this exhibition he goes back to his original art tools and speaks directly to this important subject.

In his artist’s statement for “Full Circle,” he states, “This body of work is dedicated to capturing the highs and lows of manic mental states. As someone who suffers from mental health issues, I wanted to dedicate a body of work to Mental Health America, an organization I support and fully stand by. Mental illness is a silent killer that continues to take lives daily. I did these 10 paintings in hopes that other people also suffering from mental health problems can relate. This is my therapy. This is my practice. This is what keeps me going when I’m in a really dark place. If you find something that you’re passionate about, it can save you too. The term “Full Circle” comes from wanting to return back to my roots of graffiti, using paint markers and aerosol cans. In my early years these were the common tools I used to express myself. I hope you enjoy the work.”

Athens Arts is free of charge. The public is cordially invited to join artist Raez today at Athens Arts for an Artist’s Reception immediately following the Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting to officially open the “new” Athens Arts at 216 E. Main St. The ribbon-cutting will happen at 5 p.m. and the reception for Raez will be from 6-8 p.m. Guitarist Steve Charles will provide music.

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