You gotta love art with a message. In artist Stephen Floyd’s case, the medium is our conversational ether, our office-talk, the phrases that float around us during dinner conversation and in the news and are completely obvious, except when they end up in one of Floyd’s drawings and get turned on their head.

Floyd was born in Galveston, Texas in 1978. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. All images © Stephen Floyd, courtesy the artist, all rights reserved.

* * *

Your drawings are tongue-in-cheek, but they don’t seem to stake down any commentary that’s too precise. I’m thinking more like you’re reading the newspaper and drawing at the same time. Where do the drawings start?

I keep a few ongoing lists of ideas and notes for drawings on my iPhone. Here are some words from my current list:

We sell cancer
Dead artists
Staff meating
Blu birds fly
Missile toe

I have no idea what these notes will become, but that’s where the drawings start.

So much of the fun in these drawings is their lightness. Is there a darker series waiting to come out?

I think when most people make something “dark,” they are trying too hard to be edgy. It’s everyone’s first impulse, so I try to avoid it.

Did you draw a lot as a child?

I have drawn for as long as I can remember. In school, I was always known as the kid that could draw. When I was about seven some of the other kids in my Cub Scout troop asked me to draw a naked lady. I thought, “well, sure, I would like to see one too.” So I gave it my best effort and I drew a pretty nice set of tits.

What was the impulse behind the billboards?

I thought it would be interesting to put my drawings in places one would least expect to encounter contemporary art. They can be seen and enjoyed without the baggage of trying to define and understand “art.” I thought that when the drawings were installed and viewed outside of the context of a traditional “art venue,” that it was easier for people to set aside the classic questions such as, “What is art? Is it good art? Is it worth the money? Is it deserving of praise? Is it museum-worthy?” The people that drive by the drawings can enjoy them, question them, or ignore them, but they will react to them in a fundamentally different way than if they were viewed in an “art venue.”

How long before we see a Stephen Floyd merchandise line?

I don’t even know where to begin with this one.

What are you working now?

My tombstone.


Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. He is the author of three books, including his latest novel The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of the Year). His nonfiction appears in a variety of magazines, mostly GQ. More information can be found at More by Rosecrans Baldwin