Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Duffy's provocative take on the world, culture, and sexuality is as spectacular as it is irreverent, & unapologetically honest.
Heading to Reis Studios to meet and interview Stef Duffy was an artistic journey in itself. Not knowing where I was going, just following the GPS on my phone as it had us weaving in and out of industrial sections of the area. I'm always drawn in by the straight lines of commercial buildings and the sleekness of the concrete walls and I enjoyed our journey. Finally, we began noticing those painted with outward pourings of emotion and knew we were getting close.
The area in Long Island City, where the studio stands, is now New York City’s most exciting and growing arts district. The studio itself houses over 200 hundred artists from 35 nations aiming to develop an environment where artists, collectors, curators, writers, designers, and architects can come together to develop progressive ideas and advanced techniques in their respective fields.
I had the rare treat of being introduced to Stef by a mutual friend and can assure you the artist behind the brush is as complex as the painting he puts upon the canvas, no matter if he’s working on something surreal or psychological in theme.
Meeting an artist at their studio is a bit deeper than simply nodding hellos and exchanging pleasantries. You have been allowed in their zone. A place where they bleed their emotions, and that is usually done in private. Being invited in is a privilege.
From the moment he came down the elevator to retrieve us I was at ease. This guy was putting on no heirs; he was as real as they come. Hair a bit disheveled, tanned skin glistening - proof that he had been upstairs working. He was warm and welcoming and his eyes shone with sincerity.
I learned more about him from listening than I did from speaking with him. Watching the reunion between him and our mutual friend surpassed heartwarming. They hadn’t seen each other in 30 years, and as soon as they laid eyes on each other it was as if not a minute had passed. Listening to them talk about college and old friends and how they have grown as people since then was wonderful. They continued to apologize assuming I was bored, but I was loving every minute of it. I was getting everything I wanted, and I hadn’t said a word.
When we began touring the studio and looking at some finished pieces I was even more in awe of the talent this artist has. Seeing the work up close, every brushstroke, and how it plays into the next was fantastic. It’s not just a matter of artistic talent but, imagination as well. Landscapes are beautiful but Stef Duffy’s paintings are the type of work you can get lost in. Your mind wanders to a place it’s never been, and you realize it’s a destination you want to revisit. From figuratism to realism and psychological pieces to works of erotica, Stef’s work is like an amusement park for the mind.
While we continued to chat, he told stories of his days after college. His highs, his lows, and some in-betweens. Some of it was exciting, some of it was dark. None of it is for me to tell. If Banksy can be such a mystery then Stef Duffy can keep his private life private.
Some things I took away from our time together that I feel are important to share. Stef had various jobs after college and didn’t make art a priority. It wasn’t until he was 40 that he decided to follow his heart and his passion and dive in 100%. Personally, that gave me a lot of motivation. That and his words to me, “It’s never too late.” I left him with a renewed energy that day. A better outlook for the future and more confidence in myself. He’s right, it’s never too late to follow a dream.
This practitioner of the arts is New York through and through. He was born and raised in New York City and went to Skidmore College to study art. He has a huge dog that is part of the family and he highly respects his mother. Also, if she tells him to eat an empanada, he will eventually have to eat it, whether hungry or not. That’s about all I am willing to share. Let his artwork tell you the rest; there is a story to be told in all of them.
All rights to artwork displayed are reserved & retianed by the artist, shared with permission