Byron May isn’t the “Man of Steel,” but his startling use of a unique red, blue, and yellow proprietary, soy-based paint, and the sheets of stainless steel upon which he creates bold three-dimensional images that literally lift from the surface is art so powerful you’ll swear it was forged with superhuman strength—superhuman vision. And maybe you’re not far off the mark. May’s ABSTRACTIONS ON STEEL opens free to the public in artspace at 708 Texas Street in downtown Shreveport on Friday, August 27, with a reception from 5:30 to 9:00 PM.
May’s story and the path he followed to become an artist is otherworldly, also. Most people in his hometown of Shreveport know him as founder and owner of “SB Magazine” and a championship golfer, and some knew him as owner of Mid-South Press. That was May’s life until almost a decade ago when a back surgery gone very wrong, and pain that was literally driving him mad, brought him back to the print shop where he had spent over 30 years in the graphic arts field. To distract himself from the pain, May picked up one of the metal printing plates he’d seen his pressmen use on job after job; the cyan, magenta and yellow colors typical to the printing world, but now in the form of a proprietary soy-based paint; and a wooden-handled palette knife. He transferred an unassembled mixture of elements that he was seeing in his head onto the metal on the table in front of him in one, hours-long, non-stop session. The art excited and fascinated him and became his new passion. In a way, it saved May’s life.
May invented the proprietary soy-based paint that he uses on stainless sheets to create vivid, three-dimensional, abstract art he hopes will stir your emotions. Light makes his art come alive, and as light changes throughout the day, so does his art. Many of his pieces are large—48” x 36”—but the artspace exhibition will have a wide range of sizes, some as small as 12” x 12”. The work has a 3-D quality and May will provide 3-D glasses for viewers at the artspace exhibition so they can experience the unique depth he paints into his images. The pieces bear the names, “A Complicated Idea,” “Heaven’s Gate,” and “Paradise Series,” and it is May’s life experiences that are the constant inspirations that imbed the images into his head.
“No one on earth has my recipe for paint,” says May. “It’s part of what makes the art unique. The colors are incredibly bold—sometimes smooth in texture and other times wrinkled, depending upon how I have mix the paint. I love exploring the possibilities of this one-of-a-kind paint. I can put red, yellow and purple on the steel, cover it all with blue, then use the palette knife to remove some of the blue and not remove or alter the colors beneath. I love to see people’s faces when I demonstrate that technique.”
May adds, “The stainless steel gives a unique quality to my art. It causes it to thrive for light. Because of the steel, light opens up the layers of the art. The sun does not change the vividness of the colors. You can look through 3-D glasses and the entire painting changes--comes to life in tumbling layers, and changes from every angle from which you explore it. I create so that each piece grabs your attention every time you walk by it in your home or in a gallery,” says May.
May opened his first solo exhibition at The Gallery of Fine Arts in Louisiana in 2008, and since that time has had successful shows at The Arlington Museum of Art, The Brunner Galleries of Louisiana in Covington, The Oh My Goddard Gallery in Las Vegas, The Rostad Edwards Gallery in Miami, and The International Art Gallery in San Francisco. He has also been featured artist at Ao5 Gallery in Austin since 2010. In 2015, May was commissioned by Tiet-Reit Asset Management Group to create 15 large pieces for the lobbies of One and Two Briar Lake Plaza office buildings in west Houston. He has also done many pieces for collectors’ homes.
Also opening that same evening in Coolspace at artspace is an exhibition that tells the story of the making of Academy Award-Winning filmmaker, writer, and illustrator William Joyce’s newest short film, “Mr. Spam Gets a New Hat” and on the mezzanine will be the Critical Mass 8 Solo Show of Best of Show Literary Artist Mawiyah Kai EL-Jamah Bomani entitled Thick Air: Rituals of Resistance. Visit www.artspaceshreveport.com or www.shrevearts.org for more information.