Every Friday we’re bringing you interviews with established artists who want to share the insights they’ve picked up along their artistic journey– everything from the daily schedule they use to stay creative to the things that inspire them to the tools they can’t live without and much more. Our hope is that each one is full of ideas, tools, and inspiration you can apply to your own art career. Enjoy!
Matt’s daily schedule
My days are as packed as I can make them. In the morning I set aside a few hours of reading and research- this is as important as studio time, in fact, I don’t generally differentiate between the two. It’s important to find a historical grounding from which to situate your own work, at least conceptually, and this, of course, produces a life time worth of looking and making on its own.
It becomes the equipment with which we handle our own work, so that when a problem arises in the studio, it’s value isn’t lost or misplaced. But becoming a good reader, a good researcher -knowing where to look for information, how to tend it for the studio- is an entirely separate skill.
There aren’t many opportunities to be in the studio all day, since I’m an earning-artist, but when I am I like to work until my eyes are fevered, breaking for coffee and a walk here and there. A twelve, thirteen hour day is not uncommon, but not necessary either; I try to get to that hour when, as Guston puts it, your friends, your critics, your heroes from history have all walked out on you, so that, eventually, if you’re really in it, you walk out on you too.
The heartbeat of Matt’s work
Probably some of the most painful experiences came from leaving, from moving, having left- though there was nothing else then I could do. When I first went to Chicago, when I was beginning school, it was like my life had dropped out of me, like my mind had disappeared from me.
A few years later, I moved to New York and it was the same labyrinthine, bleach black reckoning. There was nothing romantic about this, it was impossibly painful. Everything I am now, though, everything my work reaches into, comes out of this experience. Every resolution, every morning, every fit of erasing honesty is born out of it trapped somewhere in time.
So much of the world is unknowable, and this experience I’m describing might indeed stay that way for me forever. This is where working, whether painting or otherwise, reaches into an impasse. And as artists we have to take up the reins of that responsibility (as they are unwieldy) if we do decide, as many artists have, to make the decision to paint emotionally, which is clearly what is determined by that pain or joy you’ve asked about to begin with. Here, I think, lies the circumference of the works pale. And I think being careful of that will weave the work into an experience of the world, of being, that will carry it toward its own disintegration, toward its failure. If it holds, if it climbs back, you’ll know what it has to tell you and you can go from there.
There’s really nothing that moves me like music. And there is no better high than walking with a good record, or working inside one. Those hours unfreeze into land. That for me is the terrifying height of living.
Advice: Good habits, community, and Kool-Aid
Keep good habits. Art making can be a thankless and lonely activity- you’ll come to rely on those good habits like mantras. Rhythm, for one, is impossible to overestimate and the most important thing in an artists’ development. Keeping a dedicated and sturdy practice is everything. Certainly I’m protective of mine.
A community is also very important, one that goes further than professional contacts; art, of course, is not created in a vacuum and maintaining a base is one of the more healthy and inspiring resources an artist can hold around them.
For students I would say, drink the Kool-Aid. And listen closely to what your teachers are telling you, you’ll never have a more informed, selfless and talented group of people in the same place again. And take them at their word as far as you’re able.