The news these days is bad. It’s hard not to be depressed or angry if you are paying attention to current events as portrayed by the media. Richmond artist Matt Lively has come up with a simply genius solution: shut it off. I caught up with Matt during the final days of his recent solo show, "Ignoring the Roar of Doom," with us at the j fergeson gallery.
Matt Lively: I do not have a split personality --just different websites. The websites needed to be separated because of the expectations of the visitors. The work on one site represents work that is more visually digestible by a larger number of people (MattLively.com) where the work on the other is more conceptually based and not readily understandable (MatthewLively.com). I make a lot of work and use many different mediums and they have to be categorized in some way - this is just how I decided to do it several years ago. It is possible that I'll make a third site in the future that will be all of my other stuff that doesn't fit visually on those two sites.
JF: So who is the real Mr. Lively?
ML: My normal characterization of the difference between "Matt and Matthew's" work is that Matt's work is easy to understand faster for more people. Matt's work has to be recognizable and visually memorable, whereas Matthew's work tends to be a little difficult to understand because of the vague stories that I like to inject. Matthew's tends to be more personal I guess.
JF: Is “Doom” a show by Matt or Matthew?
ML: I think of it as a collaboration between the two sensibilities.
JF: Where did the title “Ignoring the Roar of Doom” come from?
ML: I used to get really depressed listening to the news while I worked. I thought that the more I learned about the world, the more I could help to change it to make it better. My work suffered because the depression was hurting me mentally and physically. The work was reflecting what I was learning. I wanted to make work that was free of any outside influence. I decided to stop listening, reading, and watching all news. I was able to make work that was more of a raw version of my own thoughts about the world free from the influence of the media. After the first month or so I noticed a dramatic difference in the way I felt. Productivity increased and I could more clearly see what my own thoughts were and more clearly transfer that to canvas. I stopped worrying about every little evil in the world and just did my job. The work in this show is work that has been made while ignoring all of the bad news.
JF: The roar of doom is most obvious in your painting “Wave," (see left) the immense tidal wave in the background about to crush the suburban neighborhood. Are you making a statement about the suburbs or modern planned neighborhoods?
ML: The houses represent people to me. I make fables and stories rather than statements. Art that makes a statement usually suggests that the artist thinks that he has an insight that no one else is privy to. My statements would bore and irritate people.
JF: “Ignoring the Roar of Doom” fills the gallery space with large and small colorful paintings, but in the middle of all that painterly goodness is your installation “Satellite," which includes no paint, but only a pencil-drawn aerial view of a cul-de-sac complete with identical 3d houses.
Will you talk a bit about that piece and how it relates to the roar of doom?
ML: I can tell you what I was thinking although it could be overly simplistic. (Making things is my job - interpretation is up to the viewer.) The houses are viewed from above and made to seem fragile and unknowing of a potential danger from above - an asteroid say. Ignoring the possibility of danger provides the opportunity to live peacefully and without fear. The cul-de-sac represents The End, the houses represent the people, and the curve in the road from above is shaped like a tidal wave. Had I added color it could take a turn in the realm of train-set miniatures and I wanted to avoid that. That said - I thought the shadows would look good and everyone likes miniatures.
You can see more of Mr. Lively's work by clicking the slideshow on this page and by visiting the websites mentioned above.