Wear it out

Stevn Dutton figured out what he wanted to do with his life at 6 years old, when he started painting.

“Ever since I was a little kid I've always wanted to be an artist,” he said. And with 22 shows under his belt during his 13 years in Nashville, he continues to realize that goal as he ping-pongs between varied artistic styles and inspirations ranging from astrology and sensuality.

"I always have grown from one piece of art to another,” Dutton said, and this is immediately apparent after a quick glance at his resume. His last show, “A Journey into Habitville” was a celebration of breaking with restrictive routines that included photographs, paintings and acrylic sculptures.

The next step in Dutton’s diverse journey is a markedly different one: t-shirt design. Customers on his website, stevndutton.com, can visit his store, dubbed Habbywear in a nod to his last art show, and select from dozens of gallery images for a shirt.

The designs range from playful —two cows “in the mooooo’d” — to evocative: two lovers embracing one another. With so many options, there’s bound to be something for everyone, Dutton said.

Having custom-painted seven pairs of jeans in the past, Dutton said designing t-shirts was an easy way to make his art accessible to those who might not be able to own expensive art pieces.

“People wear clothes. People love clothes,” he said. “I had a lot of good stuff and I wanted to put it on t-shirts; it's like having their own art piece that they don't hang on their wall, but hang on themselves when they wear it.”

So far, he says, his mission has been successful.

“Many people that have been buying my shirts,” he said. So many, in fact, that he sees the possibility or growth into women’s styles, a wider variety of apparel and eventually maybe even his own boutique.

“I feel like it's definitely going to pick up and go to different venues,” he said. “I can definitely see a store or something happening.”

Dutton credits a sizable portion of his success to the gay community in Nashville, which has buoyed his artistic ambitions for years.

“I've been involved in the gay community for 16 years, and a lot of people know me and respect me,” he said. “It means a lot to me because I'm a part of this community.”

While he’s still contemplating his next step, artistically, Dutton knows it will connect to the theme that arches across his varied body of work: “It's about human beings just living life … We're all one. We're all just people, no matter what kind of people we are.”

One option he’s considering is helping other artists to express themselves by creating a show of their own. But regardless of his direction, Dutton is confident that the fruits of his labor will continue to improve.

“No matter what it's going to be beautiful and it's going to be inspiring and it's going to be memorable,” he said. “That is my goal: to make art bigger and bigger ... like an 'art-palooza.'"

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Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

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