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12 Questions: Kim Matthews

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Kim Matthews makes nonobjective drawings and sculpture in various media. The frequent use of accretion to develop her works evolved from practical concerns—the need to be productive with little available studio time—and spiritual ones, as repetition is evocative of the mantra meditation that structures her daily life. The recipient of a 2010-2011 Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant, Ms. Matthews exhibits in nonprofit and commercial venues throughout the U.S. In 2017, she participated in her first international exhibition in Ukraine. Her work is featured in Lark Books’ 500 Paper Objects and Artistry in Fiber, Volume II: Sculpture, published by Schiffer.

Artist’s Statement

I’m interested in the ineffable qualities of “objectness”—what is sometimes called aura—as well as materiality and process as vehicles for spiritual engagement. My work is rooted in a long-term meditation practice; making drawings and sculptures is a complementary discipline of devotion. I use tactility to draw the viewer into the work and toward introspection through the seduction of intense looking.

Although the 108 Series drawings are comparatively quiet—a kind of art medicine—they have a kinship with the exuberant sculpture in this exhibition despite their origins in very different experiences. In addition to the obvious shared formal qualities of geometry, tactility, and evidence of the hand, each series is the product of a healing process spurred by profound loss. The drawings are influenced by the Tantric drawings of Rajasthan in their format, simplicity, and potential use for prayer or contemplation. They tend to emerge in response to current world events or personal ones; I’ve made them throughout the Australian wildfires, COVID, and the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, for instance, although they began in response to a breakup of a long-term relationship. They are not topical, however.

The sculptures are increasingly revealing themselves as analog to a soul-retrieval process. They were prompted by a desire to reclaim my most comforting childhood memories and express affection for the illustrators and designers whose work informed my early visual lexicon—Peter Max, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast—and the brightly colored design objects I yearned for: inflatable furniture, the Panasonic Toot a Loop radio, and Op-art prints. They are also influenced by the art of the 1960s and early 1970s; in particular, postminimalist artist Eva Hesse is a touchstone, as she is for so many women.

1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

Tao te Ching. Science of Being and Art of Living by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Anne Truitt journals: Daybook, Turn, Promise, and Yield. I read tons of art history too—mostly 20thcentury, stuff about artists into metaphysics, Theosophy, like that. That’s a few more than three!

2. What are you currently working on? I’m working my way out of a pretty serious (for me) depression. I don’t have clinical issues per se; I just went through eight months with almost no paying work and went down a long, dark road of self-recrimination for poor choices I made when I was a teenager that informed everything that followed. I recently picked up a nine-month contract, so that gives me a little breathing room and I can get back to working on my latest series of Kites, which are fluorescent painted wall-hung mixed media sculptures. The thing is, my whole project is about making objects that carry and convey positive feelings, and I don’t want to infuse my work with feelings of anxiety or sadness, so I have to be really conscious of my state of mind when I set out to work in the studio.

3.How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?

I don’t think failure has set me up for later success at all. I think all my failures have just made my life a lot harder than it had to be. I don’t believe that suffering is needed for one to be an artist. I think it’s just part of life and should be avoided at all cost when one has the option. I try to make the most life-affirming choices possible so I don’t have a bunch of messes to clean up and am not living from crisis to crisis. So I don’t have a favorite failure, unless you’d consider a stubborn resistance to being “normal” a failure. That would be my favorite.

If you’re talking about art, I definitely learn from my technical failures. Sometimes repeatedly.