Graphic designer-turned-muralist Kyle Steed has expanded his practice in every sense of the word. Self-employed for the past six years, he has quickly evolved from small projects such as windows at the now-defunct Knox-Henderson boutique Milk & Honey to paintings growing ever larger in scale and ambition.
Most recently, he crowned the Plaza of the Americas building with a 110 x 30-foot splash of swirling color. So, when Steed was approached to create a piece of art for the backside of Dallas' iconic Coors Light waterfall billboard, he was more than ready for the challenge.
“I think scale has always drawn me,” says the artist, who also has created murals on the Trinity Strand Trail and in the Bishop Arts District. “I’ve always been drawn to doing stuff larger than outside of a piece of paper or on a computer screen. I also had an appreciation for graffiti growing up in high school — there’s a little bit of a rebellious streak in me that wants to defy the norm.”
Self-taught, Steed took a circuitous route to becoming a full-time artist. After moving to Texas post-graduation in 2000, he scored a graphic design internship but ultimately decided to enter the military.
While serving in the Air Force, he indulged his creative impulse with photography, painting, and drawing. Time spent in Japan gave him an appreciation for minimalism and simplicity, hallmarks of his work today. When his time was done in 2007, he moved to Texas with his wife and began exploring the web design world while building a presence for his fine art work on social media platforms like Twitter (where he has 12,000 followers) and Instagram (where he has 150,000).
He attributes the upward trajectory of his career to “a snowball effect. People see that thing and want you to do something for them.”
The latest in line was Dustin Lovingood, the vice president of marketing for Monogram Residential Trust, who needed something on the rear side of Harry Hines’ classic waterfall billboard, to brighten the view for residents of the new luxury complex The Alexan.
“People would say the Coors Light billboard is an icon in the city of Dallas,” Lovingood explains. “We’ve got apartments facing the backside, and that’s not attractive. But then you’ve got the weight of this icon and how do we do it right? There were several artists I considered, but Kyle has such a following and wasn’t intimidated by the scale of this project.”
For Steed, who spent his childhood in Alabama and North Carolina, the famous billboard was an instant reminder of visiting his father during the Texas summers.
Since the final piece will be the main view for many of The Alexan’s residents, Steed wanted it to have a special significance. “I was trying to get in touch with these memories I had as a child, and what this billboard meant to me, so I used all these icons and we went through four or five versions of artwork.”
Ultimately, he landed on an idea inspired by the dichotomy of keeping a sense of peace in a driven, competitive city. The work, printed on vinyl to survive the elements, features figures in red, white, and blue tumbling across a black background, representing two opposing forces meeting in the middle.
“It’s like Rothko — you look at a piece of his painting that’s minimal, but if you read about what he was dealing with [while] making it, it’s very heady,” Steed says of his work’s layered meaning.
Being revealed at a private event on May 18, the billboard is visible for non-residents at the intersection of the Trinity Strand Trail with the Katy Trail. Eventually, Lovingood says a restaurant going in that spot will give visitors another reason to stop and take in Steed’s vision.
As for Steed, he hopes his latest undertaking will have the same effect on its viewers that his other murals have achieved.
“Art is very subjective, but I hope I get somebody that stops and wants to take a minute to pause and reflect on what it means in their life. Maybe that’s what I hope to do in all my work — give people a moment of pause.”