As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing J. Steven Manolis.
J. Steven Manolis is a noted colorist and abstract expressionist, born in South Dakota, started his career on Wall Street before following his childhood dream of becoming an artist. Manolis now lives and works in Miami, Florida, where he founded Manolis Projects, a 5,000-square foot working studio gallery. Manolis has had 3 solo museum shows, 16 solo gallery shows, and 16 group shows, his work is exhibited in 15 corporate installations, and he has over 360 private collectors.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small midwest prairie town, Huron, South Dakota. I was one of five children. My grandfather from Greece, John Manolis, was the family patriarch, and he and my father were partners in the coin operating business, with a route that covered much of eastern South Dakota. I was very active in multiple sports, a top student, and co-founded a rock band named The Torres. In my youth, I asked my family if I could be a professional artist when I grew up, but my grandfather refused to allow this because in his home country all artists were communists. But the love of art was never far from either my heart or my soul.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I spent nearly 35 years of the closest possible friendship with world-famous colorist artist Wolf Kahn. We first met in 1980 when I purchased my first painting of his, and worked together with him at the National Academy of Design and the Vermont Studio Center. We became best friends. He was my art teacher and mentor and gave me one on one private painting lessons for thirty years. After a forty-year Wall Street career, the drums pounded to a breaking point and I answered a late-life calling and started a full-time fine arts painting career in 1966. For this, I owe Wolf Kahn everything.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
By far the most exciting has been the 360 individuals and couples who have collected my work. This group is unified by a love of art, and the thrill of collecting. They are in constant communication with me as an artist, and this dynamic communicative duopoly is the nirvana of my late life.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
My desire to create and paint is overpowering. I concurrently have the strongest desire to simultaneously achieve cutting-edge status as an art teacher, art adviser, curator, gallerist and art collector. My daily inspiration comes from my wife and family.