IN THE STUDIO WITH MATT MAGEE
How the Artist and I Survived a Car Trip to
Drink Tequila, Eat Meatballs & Discuss Creativity
On a cold brisk fall evening, I drove the tall and gregarious artist Matt Magee from a cocktail party at Standard Space gallery in Sharon, CT to a dinner party on top of Skiff Mountain. Filled with excitement for the upcoming opening of his latest show, It’s All About You, we took this as an opportunity to become better acquainted as we bumped along the road in a hunter green, stick shift 2000 Jeep Cherokee Sport. The headlights were not working properly, and we had to carefully keep our eyes out for deer, racoons and potholes using only the faintest warm glow from the (very) low beams. When not thinking, “oh my god,” we managed to discuss Matt’s own memories and fondness for rural Lichfield County. Upon arrival to the mountaintop house, we joyfully downed a shot of tequila to celebrate that we had survived the harrowing twenty-minute road trip. And eventually, over delicious meatballs and broccoli rabe prepared by Standard Space owner and photographer Theo Coulombe, I was able to enquire and learn about Matt’s choices to become a creative, how his geologist father remains a constant source of inspiration, and why painting on large canvases is overrated.
Sculpture Stacks and the City Window, 2021, oil on aluminum sheet, 12" x 18", Framed
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career as an artist?
When I was about 20. In college I was going for a degree in geology but then in my junior year switched to art history and studio art classes. Much of my time was spent in my dorm room making things and I created this hanging installation of plastic bags spray painted orange and pink strung onto 6-8 ft lengths of wire. My room was like a hot pink kelp forest, completely filled with these suspended sculptures. I was going to museums a lot and was getting art history credits for the internships at the Guggenheim Museum circa 1981 and 1982. I came to a realization that what really made me happy and defined who I am was working with my hands and creating. Rather than call myself an artist it was more about accepting myself as a creative and going forward.
Red U Blue U Black U, 2022, found objects on paper, 17 3/4” x 15”, Framed
What aspect of your childhood continues to inspire your creativity today?
My father’s work as a petroleum geologist took him and our family to live in, travel to and experience quite a few foreign countries and cultures early on (Paris, Tripoli, and London). All the sights, smells and sounds are imbedded in my memory bank. The curiosity and appreciation remain and I find that there can be exploration every day promoting insight and knowledge that spur ideas and ultimately my work in the studio.
Planeshift 2, 2020, aluminum on copper plate, 10” x 13”, Framed
How would you describe your work?
I’ve always explored a variety of media, much of which is found and repurposed. Paintings and objects record abstraction in a literal linear way as if experience, shape and form are codified into sentences and paragraphs. My work expresses my own singular life experience, finding language in the shapes of objects is one of the core tenets of my practice.
Five Elements, 2021, oil on card, 7 1/2” x 7 3/4”, Framed
What is your favorite piece in your current show 'It's All About You' at Standard Space and why?
A departure for me are the 4 small framed paintings on card. Galleries and museums tend to celebrate large scale work but mid-twentieth century artists I admire and draw from tended to work at a more modest scale. Realizing and seeing the power that a small-scale painting can hold was an epiphany and will inspire more of the same.
Small Green Seven, 2021, oil on card, 8” x 7”
Last but not least, what exciting plans do you have for 2023?
I’m looking forward to a show in February with my New Mexico dealer Levy Gallery. My work will be paired with a show of Damian Hirst’s recent prints. There will also be print collaborations with Petrichor Press in Philadelphia and Harlan & Weaver in NYC. Also on the horizon is a print collaboration with Black Rock Editions in Santa Fe. I’ll be back in Paris for a fourth print residency at Woolworth Publications and will be doing another solo show with my Houston gallery PazdaButler. A busy year ahead.
Margin, 2022, oil on panel, 18” x 12”, Framed
Standard Space is located at 147 Main Street, Sharon, CT and is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5PM, and by appointment. The exhibition ends on Sunday, November 27.