Brower began the lecture by discussing his inspirational origins, such as the comedy and style of Groucho Marx. He said the man’s humor was “so sardonic and irreverent” that he couldn’t help but love the comedy style. A notable portion of Brower’s work, especially his earlier work, features references to Marx.
This occasionally child-like chaos and general lack of regard for the norms of society is what makes Brower’s work come to life. Not only is his work original and imaginative, it tends to border on the controversial. Occasionally, Brower has crossed this line, such as the time he submitted a cover for Print magazine that resulted in “a record number of subscription cancellations.”
Ironically, he would later go on to work with Print as a creative director for five years. While serving there, Print celebrated two National Magazine Awards for General Excellence. He would later be fired when another cover idea of his resulted in, once again, a record-breaking number of canceled subscriptions.
Keeping with the theme of youthfulness, Brower also spoke about his ties to the realm of comic book antics and his love of the work of Jack Kirby, the man behind some of the most legendary superheroes. Having served as a writer, editor and artist while designing familiar figures like The Hulk, The X-Men and Captain America, it is possibly his interdisciplinary renown that set the stage for Brower’s later forays into the world beyond his own artistic medium.
He later went on to cite Woody Guthrie as another important figure in his life. “Woody Guthrie transformed me,” said Brower.
Guthrie was well known for writing hundreds of traditional, folk and children’s songs, as well as his political activism. His most recognizable piece is easily “This Land is Your Land.” However, Guthrie’s fame- as well as his living- was made through his artwork and dedication to the things he believed in. This passion is what earned Brower’s respect. He felt that Guthrie not only changed his life, but changed the face of the nation as well, and that his work was a microcosm of the tulmultuous, communism-fearing period that followed World War II.
After a period of working strictly in the field of graphic and artistic design, Brower braved the literary publication process and released Woody Guthrie Artworks, a book featuring and discussing the contribution that Guthrie made to art. He penned this with one of Guthrie’s eight children, Nora Guthrie.
This was not the only book Brower worked on. In 2006, he co-authored 2D: Visual Basics for Designers with Robin Landa and Rose Gonnella. He also designed Satchmo: The Wonderful Art and World of Louis Armstrong in 2009. The cover art of this book was used as promotional material for the lecture.
In 2010, Brower designed and wrote two other books; From Shadow to Light: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin and Breathless Homicidal Slime Mutants: The Art of the Paperback. The former is about DC Comics artist Mort Meskin, his delicate mental stability, and the dark and bold style that he brought to a formerly light and airy medium. The latter of the two books is a collection and dissection of paperback cover art and those who created the art in the first place.
Brower’s lecture ended with mention of some of his more recent efforts. He has begun passing on his considerable knowledge to the students of Marywood University, located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He also served as an adjunct professor at Kean, Rutgers-Newark and our very own University. Brower owns a design company, which can be found at StevenBrowerDesign.com.
Ted Michalowski, Professor of Illustration at Marywood University, had a great time. “Your campus is beautiful,” said Michalowski. His students passionately agreed.
“Steven Brower is a noted American graphic designer and we were honored to have him speak and show his work in the MU Gallery,” Cresson adds. Brower spoke to her Graphic Design class, sharing his knowledge with our peers.
If you missed the reception, don’t fret, because there is still time to head over to the Ice House gallery and check out Brower’s amazing work. No matter what your major, it would be a major disappointment to miss.