Steve’s Dad died very young from heart problems. I feel losing his father at an early age pushed Steve more into art and creativity. He was very tall for his age, and a bit awkward and shy. I don’t think that shyness lasted long, because he seemed to have grown into himself and developed confidence.
In high school, Steve applied to the School of Visual Arts and was accepted. I can only image his happiness. He majored in advertising and fine arts. This was a crucial part of his discovery as to what direction to go in the art world. While at SVA, he met Keith Haring and they became school buddies. Haring was 2 years older than Steve, and was not yet famous at the time. But Haring had already started his graffiti art. I think Haring’s art greatly inspired Steve.
Steve told a funny story that, one day at school, Haring asked to borrow money from him. To pay him back, Haring gave Steve one of his paintings. For a class project, Steve needed a canvas, so he painted over Haring’s art. Until the day Steve died, he still kicked himself about that. But back then, who would know the value? Come to think of it, imagine if this canvas was found today, with the work of BOTH artists on this single canvas. Only time and technology will finish this story.
While at SVA, Steve was hired by Andy Warhol to work at the Factory. This was circa 1979-1981. Steve was cutting the film screens and helping to prepare material that Andy Warhol would need for screenprinting. Warhol was happy with him because he was fast and very good at it. Steve was dedicated, anxious to learn, and very good at what he was doing for the process of making the silkscreens. He learned a lot from Warhol and worked hard. Andy Warhol would call him “SAK," using Steve's initials from his full name, Steve Alan Kaufman. Steve for most of his life used that name more often than his real name. He signed his art SAK. Steve never partied or hung out with Warhol or his crowd. I don’t know why, but perhaps it was because he felt out of place amongst the eclectic crowd. Steve was a Bronx boy, and liked hanging with with his friends from the neighborhood.
During that time period, Steve also worked with Studio 54 on a consignment basis. Steve would set up a table, easel, and his paint near the entrance inside, and would paint portraits of patrons for money. He also promoted parties there. He would make brochures and have fliers sent out, and he would get a percentage of the door entrance fees. He helped to make the long lines to get in even longer. Here, he also never got too involved with the patrons of the club. Steve was very young, and I don’t think he was comfortable socializing there. He wanted to make money. Steve was great at making money. He had a brilliant business mind even at a young age, and always had new ideas that were very creative.
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