Steve Cleff is a Philadelphia-based figurative artist who works primarily with watercolors. He has synesthesia, a condition which causes him to see vibrant colors when he experiences sounds, tastes, or emotions. The color palette and style of his paintings incorporate these visions.
Steve received his fine arts degree from Syracuse University and has studied figurative and portrait art at Studio Incamminati, Moore College of Art, and Fleisher Art Memorial. His studies in Jungian Psychology, mythology, philosophy, gender roles, pop culture, and quantum physics have shaped his world view along with the imagery and narrative of his art.
His work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Honolulu at galleries that include Copro Gallery, the Dark Art Emporium, Gristle Gallery, and Arch Enemy Arts. In addition to fine art, Steve has been commissioned to illustrate movie posters, album covers, and comic book covers. His current project is a book that combines paintings, prose, and graphic novel formats to tell the story of the hidden history of Aphrodite and the influence of patriarchal societies in distorting her role as a central force driving the survival of society into that of a superficial caricature.
Artwork Themes & Subject Matter
Steve Cleff’s work is a quest to subvert the male gaze by presenting goddesses as subjects that look into the heart of the viewer. Several times viewers have remarked “that’s me” when seeing the work, which is the artist’s highest hope – to create a reflection of the viewer’s best self. For Steve, this work is an exploration of the lessons not typically taught to men in modern U.S. society: strength through compassion, trust in intuition, and finding growth through connection rather than domination. He does this by creating and learning from goddesses that represent these qualities.
This theme of transformation can also be seen in the colour palette Steve uses. Tapping into his synesthesia, he uses colours to represent concepts as he sees them in his mind’s eye: the turquoise blue of serenity, the violet hue of vitality, the glowing magenta of compassion and intuition. His images emanate the colour or meaning in a way that redirects the energy of anxiety, fear, and depression into something that inspires growth and hope.
Steve Cleff’s work has been shown in notable magazine and online sources like Filligree Magazine and Cliche Magazine.
BFA Illustration, Syracuse University, New York, USA
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Fluid Beauty, Amberella Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. United States
Streams of Consciousness, Topstich Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. United States
Selected Group Exhibitions
Small Wonders, Arch Enemy Arts, Philadelphia, PA. United States