Blood, sweat, gravel. Broken bones. Ultimate thrills. The sweet satisfaction of landing a perfect kick flip.
Dedication, passion and physical agility are prerequisites for skateboarding (with style, at least), and through a smattering of battle scars earned on the blacktop, every skateboard tells a story.
Providence-based artist and skater Steve Duque offers sequels to those stories. How? He transforms retired boards into other objects – pens, coat racks, wall hangings – and in doing so preserves each board’s past while securing its future as something else entirely.
Steve’s parents moved from Colombia to Cumberland in 1975. His interests in art and skateboarding were simultaneously inspired by one of his older brothers, Deivis, who spent a lot of time drawing, coloring and skating during his youth.
“Deivis started skateboarding when he was 12 years old,” Steve recalls. “I’d go outside to watch him and ride his skateboard on my knees. The feeling of riding the board was thrilling and I immediately fell in love.”
Even at age seven, Steve had an artistic flair. “I was really into colors and mixing them together to create new ones I’d never seen before,” he explains. This transformative talent – repurposing something that people take for granted into something new and different – is the foundation for his company Duque Skate Art.
“One day I was watching a skateboarding documentary titled Second Nature, a film by Janne Saario,” Steve recalls. “He was constructing a wall piece made from skateboards. It inspired me to make my own using decks from my personal collection. After a few days I decided to take a break and move onto something different, something smaller. I had a napkin holder that had been broken for months, so I decided to repair it using skateboard pieces. I cut a piece of wood that I couldn’t use for the napkin holder since I didn’t want to just throw out the piece. Then it hit me... perhaps I can make a pen. That was the first thing I had made out of skateboard. I called it the ‘SkatePen.’ That was on September 28, 2012,” he explains of the Canadian Maple writing utensil that has garnered rave reviews on Etsy.
Currently, Duque Skate Art produces a variety of different objects: colorful utilitarian tools, aesthetically pleasing pieces meant to adorn walls. One can even request a custom piece, but the process, like with any art form, can be tricky.
“Since skateboards come in a variety of colors, I like to place the colors along with others that you otherwise wouldn’t normally see,” says Steve. “I mix light, dark and bright colors. I currently have at least 28 separate projects in the making – about half of them are mini projects. Nevertheless, I am constantly creating new ones. I think one reason artists have many projects in process is because they are waiting for the right piece to add next.”
By day, Steve deals with numbers and finance as a business banker for Citizens, a profession that may seem to oppose his creative endeavors. Yet it is strangely representative of the art he creates; Steve himself embodies a marriage of the unexpected.
In the future, Steve hopes to set up a live workshop where he can create and display at the same time, while also expanding his reach far beyond New England. But no matter how big Steve gets, Providence, full of skate-worthy surfaces, is where he will always feel at home.
“I take a lot of pride in my Colombian-American culture and home state. Especially living in Rhode Island where some may have that small town way of thinking. It’s important to break through that mindset and discover what you truly can do when you think outside the box,” he expresses. “I’m proud to be surrounded by such a creative, diverse community and to call Providence my home.”
You can find Duque Skate Art at CIVIL skate shops throughout the state, Hope Street’s Frog and Toad, White Buffalo, Queen of Hearts, Green Envy, UNI-T in Natick Mall, Simmons Marketplace, RE:Discover and The Greenery, as well as on Etsy. Steve also sells at artist markets throughout the region and is equipped for custom orders.