By Ryan Michael
The Birmingham Times
Steven Mark Finley Jr. uses art as his therapy.
When he’s not busy DJing around town or working at the Panache Coffee Shop in Five Points South, Finley employs a variety of media—oil and acrylic paints, markers and collage, among other things—to create his layered works.
While the pieces themselves may seem difficult to parse, Finley said he’s exploring different aspects of his own identity.
“Right now, the biggest focus is myself really and kind of coming to grasp with queerness and sexuality and who I am as a vessel in those terms and labels, or that language, so kind of use art as a means of therapy and looking inward for a deeper level of understanding for myself and the world around me,” Finley said.
Finley, 26, grew up between Birmingham’s Ensley community and Hoover. He first found art when he was very young, drawing based on his experiences watching cartoons and reading comic books.
In the first grade at Minor Elementary in Birmingham, Finley said he first met Ahmad Austin, a local artist and art teacher in the Birmingham area. Austin is the only Black art teacher Finley ever knew during his elementary and high school years and is an important figure for Finley.
After graduating from Hoover High School, Finley earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Montevallo.