BY SCARLETT SALEM — The question came across a local listerv a few weeks ago: What do you do with your “garage” that’s too small for a car? Resident and contractor-by-day Paul Steinkoenig uses his Hyattsville garage to create sculptures, which have been highlighted in The Washington Post, displayed in downtown Silver Spring and installed in Calgary, Canada.
But, Steinkoenig didn’t start out as an artist.
“I have degrees in the three things you are not supposed to talk about at dinner parties — sex, politics, and religion,” Steinkoenig jokes. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, a Master of Divinity, and a Master of International Policy and Practice, and his past work includes employment as a press officer for the Department of State, a responder with the Red Cross and a minister.
Amongst his other pursuits, Steinkoenig always nursed an interest in art, and today he spends much of his time working on sculptures. Speaking with him is to experience his infectious passion.
“I feel like I have been an artist at heart all my life and never gave myself permission to pursue it in a lot of depth,” he said. “Recently, over the course of a few changes in my resume, I came to the place where I realized that my art really makes me feel alive. I’ve rearranged quite a few things and left a few jobs I was working on and made that happen.”
In his studio, Steinkoenig creates sculptures out of materials like steel, cast metal, and wood. A few months ago, he installed a10 foot piece in the front yard of his Arts District home.
Then, Steinkoenig said, one of his former art professors at Montgomery College asked if he had any work to submit. The piece had only been “installed [at home] for two weeks and then I had to take it to downtown Silver Spring,” he said. Today, the piece is showcased at the Residences at Thayer Avenue.
“… I’ve only really been calling myself an artist for three years,” he said. “Three years ago I got into my first show in D.C. … It’s been a delight to have my work starting to be recognized.”
“It’s interesting, I feel like my work is very spiritual and I’ve had three or four people recently ask me if it is intentional,” Steinkoenig said. “… It’s very touching to me that people observe that and ask about it.”
His pieces, he said, are “about the spark of life and the spirit of life.” He explains on his website, www.paulsteinkoenig.com, that his work “explores the search for balance and beauty … Including balance and beauty in my work gives me a sense of accomplishing something worth doing. It gives me purpose, and it gives me hope.”
One piece, for example, a kinetic sculpture called “In Harmony,” moves with the wind. It was featured in the Arts in Foggy Bottom 2014 Outdoor Sculpture Biennial.
Today, Steinkoenig works as an independent contractor for home remodeling to help support his artistic pursuits and continues to take classes in sculpture. The combination of contract work and sculpting works well, he said. “Keeps me busy, and I get to buy all the tools that I want for my art.”
“I feel like I gained real life lessons by working all those different jobs,” he said, but he “reached the point where I got tired of bureaucracy. My wife said, ‘You know, you are really happy when you do your art and that would be fun, we could use some more of that,’ and my mom said the same thing.”
Steinkoenig’s work will next be featured at the Brick Layers art show at Workhouse Arts Center, Vulcan Gallery and Quad, 9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, Va., 22079. Show dates: Apr. 11 to June 28, 2015. Opening reception: Saturday, Apr. 11, 2015, 6 to 9 p.m.