Obituary of Steven Walls

Steven Michael Walls, artist, father and friend, died in a car accident on November 22, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the age of 46.  He was born May 21, 1971 to Judith Walls-Fair and David Walls in Palo Alto, California.

Steven’s impact on this world is undeniable, and there is evidence of this everywhere. His big heart, his intellect, his exceptional talent, his willingness to teach and be taught, his insight and his sense of humor comforted and inspired everyone he came into contact with. 

Steven was a driven and accomplished artist who was happiest working in his studio while blasting music, taking breaks to hang out with the kids, skateboard and play “Space Oddity” on the guitar (kids on vocals).  His painting style was described by the Washington Post as “rigorous realism” for the precision and immaculate detail found in his dream-like, figurative paintings.  Steven’s artist statement for that show, titled Transient States, stated: “My images are at once both mineral pigment and apparition in the intermediate zone between presence and absence.”  And now, through his work, we may find comfort in that intermediate universe that he created, somewhere between presence and absence, but always within our hearts

Steven received his BFA in Painting and Art History from San Diego State University (1996) and his MFA in Painting from Yale University (1999).  While in graduate school, Steven played drums and toured with some of his closest friends in their band, 33.3.  Steven always looked back on his time at Yale with fondness; he loved being so immersed in art and art-making and befriending other artist’s who were just as driven and serious about art as he was.

Steven taught art and design at several colleges and universities and opened the eyes of many young students.  His previous students remarked on how meeting him was a pivotal moment in their lives. He made things seem possible; he elevated art by making it accessible to everyone. 

In addition to teaching, Steven worked for many years as an assistant at the art firm Giraud, Pissarro, Ségalot in New York.  He was an integral and trusted member of the firm, and loved not only handling incredible artwork, but also the opportunities for meaningful conversation about art and artists that came with his position.

Steven’s personal and professional accomplishments as an artist are too vast to mention, and knowing him, he would hate for them to be listed out. 

Steven’s love for his two children was immediately apparent to all who had the opportunity to see those three together. He was a loving guide and mentor and shared with them his love of art, music, questioning authority, skateboarding, dancing with abandon and surfing, among other things. His bright dad light illuminated how meaningful and magical being a father could be, the fun that could be had, the lessons that could be learned, the joy and fulfilment that fatherhood brought along with it.  

Steven’s survivors include extended family and dear friends too numerous to list.  His immediate family includes his wife Sarah Lipscomb, their son August, 12, and their daughter Penelope, 9; his mother Judith Walls-Fair and stepfather Jim Fair; his father David Walls; two sisters, Lisa Moore, her husband Gary and children Allyson and Ryan, and Heather DiBella, her husband Bryan, and their two children Hannah and Kaeden.

Steven will be greatly missed by all that had the privilege to know him. He was a truly remarkable person. To know him was to love him, and the world is forever changed without him.