Gregory Steel was born in Detroit and raised by his maternal grandparents in the richly
diverse neighborhoods of the Motor City’s East Side. From an early age, Steel was encouraged by his creative grandmother to explore his artistic abilities. During his childhood he was inspired by his grandmother’s innovative use of ordinary materials in constructing unique objects and arrangements. Her novel approach to environmental resources combined with her support were a positive influence in Steel’s artistic development. As a self-taught artist, Steel held jobs in various disciplines in order to support his work, but after many years of making art on his own he realized he needed a serious arts education.
Attending school part-time and working full-time, Steel received a BFA in 1998 from The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and an MFA in sculpture from the University of Michigan, in 2001. After his studies were completed he took a position at The College for Creative Studies teaching sculpture and experimental media. Steel is currently an assistant professor of fine arts and new media communications at Indiana University teaching sculpture, video, photography and new media.
The art of ideas is fundamental to Steel’s working process and is at the heart of his work to date. For Steel, art and life are not separate spheres. Instead, his art is only of extension of whom he is, and thus is fully integrated into his life. Navigating academic discourse and the Modernist dilemma, Steel soon came to depend on his instinct that art is an internal process. His influences include Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys, Lawrence Weiner and Allan Kaprow. Experience, rather than individual created objects, is foremost in Steel’s work. To this end, Steel employs a variety of materials and techniques in his art, including video, object making, digital imaging, book publishing, installation, performance and new technology.
A brush with cancer in 1994 reshuffled Steel's priorities affecting his work in ways that give him a greater focus and sense of urgency to complete his life’s work. As an idea artist, he views the various materials he uses as simply a way to fulfill the function of the art. Through this diversity, he resists easy categorization. Steel’s work cannot be pigeon-holed because it is integrated with his life, and as such, it is a richly layered and evolving experience. His concerns about issues of the human condition and social change, and his hope for humankind, are evident regardless of his final product. Wether Steel is collaborating in a ground-breaking physiological monitoring system with Cybernet Systems of Ann Arbor, or creating intimate and humorous tableaus replete with miniature figures in outlandish settings, his art emerges as thoughtful and timely. Steel’s work has been exhibited across the United States and Europe, most recently in China, Russia, London, and in Barcelona, Spain.