Saturday, September 5, 2009

Interview with Colin Matthes

This interview was written in two parts. It began on a bus to Brussels in the summer of 2008, and was completed in the woods of rural Ohio at the Harold Arts Residency Program, summer 2009.

q) Well, first of all please tell us a little about yourself.

a)Hello my name is Colin Matthes. Right now I’m on a bus in France on the way to visit friends in Belgium. My throat hurts. I have two buttons left on my shirt and two beers to keep me company.

q) Had you always planned on being an artist [or had you other hopes ?

a)No, I’ve always done drawings, but where I grew up no one was an artist and it wasn’t anything anyone ever thought about . In highschool I took shop classes and was considerably toasted throughout. Going to college without any specific goal in mind just barely beat staying where I was and trying to get a job as a carpenter. I missed orientation and ended up in a leftover art class. It stuck.

q) Do you have a preferred medium to work on? Why?

a)Ink on paper. It’s simple dirty cheap and beautiful. I also like building things with construction grade materials, especially cheap or found wood.

q) How would you describe your style?

a)Overall I am concerned with making human work, work that feels honest for me. This leads to making work that is sometimes topical, sometimes much more personal, and more often than not both personal and topical.

q) Do you go through any certain processes while trying to produce your work?

a)I bounce back and forth between research and making. When working on a project I make a lot of work, and start over a few times as my ideas become more developed.

q) What are you working on at present?

a)I recently completed a large wall drawing, titled Winners Circle, at the Haggerty Museum in Milwaukee.

Right now I am working on a comic about the economic collapse and popular uprising in Argentina in 2001 and the resulting collective approaches to personal and community empowerment after capital fled the country. This comic will be in an upcoming issue of World War 3 Illustrated. I am working on drawings and writing about Muhammad Ali, Roberto Clemente, Augusto Cesar Sandino, and Chico Mendes for a book project by Justseeds and Microcosm Publishing that is about people fighting for social justice in the Americas.

I plan to put out a couple small zines in the next few months and well as make a few prints.

In January 2010, Sailing the Barbarous Coast will open at the New Art Center in Newton (a suburb of Boston) Massachusetts. This will be a two person exhibition with Anthony Smith Jr., another artist whose work inspires me. The title, Sailing the Barbarous Coast, references the first US Military intervention, the Battle of Derne in 1805 that was an effort to destroy all “pirates” on the Barbary Coast. In Sailing the Barbarous Coast, we are witnesses to American aggression, power, and intervention, participating more as extras in an epic film than as writers who create the story.

q) What about recent sources of inspirations?

a)I’m not sure if inspiring is the word, but recently I have been thinking a lot about the relationships between war and economics. I am also researching the history of United States Military action overseas and continentally.

q) What are some of your obsessions?

a)Building things out of shoddy materials, drawing with ink, radical art, building things with other folks, working with friends, champion beer drinking, Irish whiskeys and stouts, shitty beer from Milwaukee, heavy and awkward art books, zines, prints, silly art, beat up stuff, junk in alleys, smashing all sorts of things (most recently a toaster).

q) Which galleries have you shown at and which galleries would you like to show at?

a)In addition to galleries I have made work to be located in the woods, in cities, and for print. I love looking at great gallery shows, but also love seeing work outside the gallery in everyday life.

I really enjoy making installations in galleries. I have shown at Inova (Milwaukee, WI), the Haggerty Museum (Milwaukee, WI), Space 1026 (Philadelphia, PA), Telefon Til Chifen Gallery (Copenhagen, Denmark), Metro Noviciado (Madrid, Spain), Anno Domini (San Jose, CA), Hotel Pupik (Schrattenberg, Austria), 5+5 Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), ABC No Rio (NYC,NY). I do not have a specific “dream” gallery, but I would like to show in Europe more consistently.

q) If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

a)Email is cool: or

q) Do you have any suggestions or advice for artists that are just starting out?

a)Work all the time, try to keep positive, don’t think too much about the artworld, work for yourself, your friends, your community. Make work about something you believe in.

Think about why you do what you do. Also, learn to write and learn a trade. I blew off writing in school and pay for it now.

q) Who are your favorite artists?

a)I have many friends that inspire the work I do. I work with the Justseeds radical art cooperative that consists of many artists whose work I have admired for a long time. Milwaukee artists including Brandon Bauer, Molly McKee, Adam McKee, Nicolas Lampert, Makeal Flammini, and Santiago Cucullu. And other friends around the world including Kati Heck, Sean McElroy, Jason Polan, Sue Coe, Karen Sanders, Jesse Connor, and so many others.

q) What books are on your nightstand?

a)No nightstand, but if you look on the floor by my mattress right next to the cooler and milkcrate you would see sketchbooks, Blackwater by Jeremy Scahill, Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan, and Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina.

q) To what weaknesses are you most indulgent?

a)My weaknesses are I cannot remember a goddamn thing, a nice infomercial can suck me in especially the flowbee one, and my asthmatic lungs.

My vices are beer, whiskey, work, sex, and being able to build a bedroom set out of milkcrates, scrap wood, and a cooler.

q)….your contacts…


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