One of a visual artist’s greatest talents is the ability to elicit a strong emotional response from their viewer. With his combination of masked, covered and abstracted figures, Matthew Craven creates images that raise questions and evoke reactions. His work is able to communicate through people’s own premonitions and connections to these images. Some of his completely abstract work is repetitions, with seemingly familiar patterns displayed in completely new ways. But whether he is using manipulated imagery or creating completely abstract work, this aptitude for making a connection with the viewer is what makes his work so unique. —Ronnie Wrest / The Citrus Report
If I had a free one-way airline ticket to give you, where would you go?
Oh man that’s tough, I have traveled very little in my life so far…. I really want to visit Asia, Africa and South America. I want to travel to places that are very different from the American/European way of life.
You work out of a studio in Brooklyn right now?
Yeah I have had a studio in Bushwick for just over a year and a half. I share it with an amazing sculpture and dear friend, Matt Stone. He is preparing for a show at Kathy Grayson’s Gallery the Hole in November. right now out studio is full of giant sculpture! It is inspiring to share a studio with such a great artist. We met in grad school , and kinda formed a bond due to our tireless work ethics and flair for elaborate labor intensive pieces. Now well are each others filter, we typically don’t show pieces with out each other approval. Ha… its a pretty funny and wonderful relationship.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Its always different and changing. Being a young artist means balancing studio time and a day job. right now I’m assisting artist Rob Pruitt. Its been a thrill working for such an successful artist. truly inspiring. Im working for Rob during the week, and always trying to find some time to work on my own stuff… as well as eating tacos with my girlfriend. every day is crazy busy for me.
>I read that you lived in Detroit for a while. Any stories to tell from that experience?
I met a lot of great people in Detroit, and it really gave me perspective on the real condition of this country. The city needs a lot of help but it is unlike any other place i ve ever lived. Its got an amazing DIY community of young people doing interesting things. I had a lot of fun there, riding bikes and making art. I’ll always treasure my time there. Ive been in New York for 3 years now, and Detroit already feels like a lifetime ago.
You recently completed an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. How important was this to the place that your work is today?
It was very important, I needed to come to New York to challenge myself. SVA gave me an excuse to dive right in. It was at an open studio where i got my first show in New York at Marvelli Gallery in Chelsea. That show gave me a lot of credibility in the art world.
A lot of the imagery you use seems to be a sort of visual commentary on Native Americans contact with settlers. Is this a goal of your work?
I kinda stumbled into that imagery by accident. but after doing some research I started to link patterns between native American, early American masonic leaders and the imagery with in civil war era military medals and uniforms. At this point I also got serious and sometimes volatile reaction when displaying this imagery. I felt compelled at that point to use very loaded imagery from our country’s historical past into my work. I would rather confront people with elements from history than to just bury them away. As a creator,Its exciting for me to amp up this loaded narrative.
You have had shows up and down the east coast in the past couple years. Is it nice to get out New York an travel for these shows?
Yes its been really great, I have travelled to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Miami in the last year or so, It always been a dream of mine to travel with my work. I’m hoping It continues to take me all over the world.
Tell me who two important influences have been on your work or your life.
Artistically its simple, When I was younger i fell in love with Trenton Doyle Hancock’s work, he is still my favorite living artist, I think history will remember him as one of the most important artist of the last 100 years! no Joke he is phenomenal! Another artist that changed my work is Ray Johnson. Many years ago I saw the documentary , How to draw a bunny. That film opened my eyes to contemporary collage. The way he mixed drawing and found images really inspired me. It was years later where i finally had the courage to incorporate that into my own work.
What are you working on lately?
I have a new body of work i am developing right now. It really opens up the imagery i have been working with the last couple years. Its less figurative, more abstract and veers away from the american iconography i have been using. I’m really excited to see where it goes, you can see some of it at my website, matthewcraven.com
Are there any plans for the rest of this year and 2012?
I’m showing at one of my favorite galleries Nudashank out of Baltimore in November for a show called PaperChasers. Nudashank has believed in me for a long time, and I’m always thrilled to work with them. Also thrilled to be working with DCKT in outta NYC for an upcoming fair in Toronto as well as much more in 2012!
From The Citrus Report
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