Artist Profile ~ Matt Smith
By Josh Wolf
I spoke with Evergreen artist, Matt Smith, about dead museums, Futurism, and drinking while painting. His upcoming show at Sage’s Cafe is Friday, January 24 with four other local artists, and performances from three local music groups.
Josh Wolf: Hey Matt, what have you been up to?
Matt Smith: Recently, I’ve been making a lot of opaque solid colors that look almost like they were made using the Paint Program digitally, but making it look painterly. Then maybe pull in a few other things from some other artists, and make a collage of styles. And of course, if I make it, it’s going to be distinctly mine. I feel like I’m learning a lot by mimicking.
So the opaque colors make the painting seem digital?
Totally. They’re sort of juxtaposed next to something that’s more painterly. I think that the juxtaposition really pays homage to where we’re at, in a historical context: we’re in a digital age. We absorb what we see. I think visual mediums are the most impactful, but I tend to think that all mediums are going towards the same thing. We’re all doing the same stuff, if we’re creative people producing work, we just use different mediums.
If we are all going towards the same thing, then what are we going towards?
I’ve always thought that it’s trying to get closer to a universal language, a deeper understanding of our potential. To me, it seems like a universal language already: art bridges communities and languages, even if the reaction is confusion. It’s something that escapes language. People are always reaching for some ‘Aha’ moment, trying to explain why we’re here, or what we’re doing. In making things, it’s the only time I’ve felt something close to an understanding of that. Upon finishing a painting, at the last brush stroke, it’s like I’ve escaped the boundaries and limitations of being human. There’s almost no word for it.
You can transcend all the bullshit that makes us ask, “What is the point of life?” That question just disappears.
Totally, and when the question’s gone, the answer is gone, and it’s all just there. It just is. It’s like peace: we’re all just chasing peace of mind.
Do you collaborate with people?
Yeah, half of my excitement about art lately has come from working with other artists. It can get lonely if you spend all your days and nights painting by yourself. It’s really nice to have a productive art space to live in. My girlfriend, Erin Johnston, is a scientific illustrator who I am collaborating with on a series of lunar caterpillars, larvae and beetles in the textures of the planets. She’s also illustrating an Ornithology Textbook for The University of Florida. She’s my Art Adviser, and she’s awesome.
But sometimes there is a lot of pressure when you’re collaborating for school. The linear timeline doesn’t always work for artists, and deadlines can be a huge pressure. There is something about that pressure that really hinders the progress.
Do you have other future projects in the works?
I think I’m going to start a website soon, because I have a lot of artist friends from other countries who don’t have the venues to show at, so I’m hoping to represent them on the site, sort of as a social networking site for visual artists, and at the same time, we’ll sell the work. I think that’ll be a good start towards an actual physical venue.
I want to turn the viewing experience of artwork into a party. Where people will correlate their experience of the artwork to having a good time: drinking, listening to music, talking. I’m kind of sick of the subdued dead air of the museum.
I think that sometimes, there’s too much respect for the art. It’s a really critical atmosphere, and there’s so much pressure to appreciate the art.
Yes! The art feels dead in that environment.
Almost all the artists are dead anyways. (laughs)
be the place
feed it life, but
it doesn’t reflect
the life. It’s not
Yeah. Museums can be the place where artwork dies. People feed it life, but it doesn’t reflect the life. It’s not very reciprocal.
Futurism talks a lot about destroying museums, and although I’m not in favor of that, I think it’s an interesting idea: not letting the history and the pressure of everything that’s been made before hinder us in our imagination.
I think so. For me, I used to be a little more extreme in my philosophies. One of the conclusions I’ve come to more recently is, that if we are aiming towards a future for ourselves, then we have to be that future right now, in the present. Instead of destroying museums, I would want to make a new movement to coincide with the old museums. I think that would be a lot more productive, and hopefully, it would show that the museum situation is kind of the dark mirror of the new movement, and it would draw a crowd from the museum, to the new movement. But museums still exist. It’s really an extreme thing to try and shut things down.
How has Olympia influenced you?
Olympia’s been great! There’s so much support here for artists. It’s been the best platform to start from.
Yeah, I think of it as a training ground sometimes.
Yeah! It’s like a boot camp, because people aren’t afraid to critique your work.
And everyone is making art. It’s nice how connected the community is.
Yeah, I love that. It’s a really thriving community.
Yeah, it’s rad! Thanks Matt!