Matthew Dutton [Interview]


Interview with Matthew Dutton

May Digital Resident

MHM: Can you give 10 words that describe your art?

MD: Experimental, satirical, whimsical horror, texture, memory, hypnagogic, nostalgic, uncanny, assemblage

MHM: Are your sculptures mostly intuitive? Or Do they usually look like how you planned or drafted ahead of time?


MD: I never really sketch or draft any studio work ahead of time.  I work things out very intuitively by creating as I go. Feeling my way through object interactions to discover how best I can convince them to fit and agree with one another.  I often dream about studio solutions and imagine problem solving moves while away from the studio…I’ll think about how best to proceed with a sculpture so that when i’m reunited I can act upon my thoughts very automatically and with confident intention.  All the while remaining open to letting the materials and objects help lead and signal their way into their right places. Build and destroy methodologies enacted enable spontaneity to have balance with control. Figuring out when a piece is complete is sometimes a challenge.

MHM: How does your interdisciplinary practice translate across mediums and creative communities, both personal and professional? Have these interpretations changed over time?

MD: I am very appreciative of all of the different opportunities I have been able able to work for.  I try to absorb as much about the materials and techniques as I can, as I go, so that I can compile them into my creative quiver dath to be called upon for future happenstance. It has taken nearly decades of working at it everyday, collecting problem solving platitudes, making an effort to stretch out and reach in every direction all at once and search for solutions.  The more I make, the more comes to be made...and i love it! I want to make all of the things! and always have but it is more now than before that I can choose where to direct my limited energy towards productively and with joy in my heart. I have a drive to entertain so many different ideas simultaneously that I inevitably get drawn into many different types of creative community orbits. I’ve built a cool network of art-minded folks that I can connect with to make things happen. Early on it is always harder and it takes time to build up relationships and skills but persistence, good work ethic, and an unquenchable thirst to make things can eventually lead to more ways to stay busy perpetually.

MHM: Can you tell us more about what inspires your work? Maybe a personal story or something you saw or read in the past?

MD: One summer evening, while laying in bed late at night trying to get to sleep… I heard the sound of small footsteps running above my head in the attic.  Other strange sounds followed… small bouncing sounds, plastic crunching sounds, object rolling sounds.. I would hop up out of bed to investigate. Pulling the heavy attic stairs down from the hallway ceiling, with its metal creaks and tension spring groans, would signal the unknown attic dwellers to disperse into the dark piles of chewed christmas ornaments and broken picture frames.  Retreating back to my slumber, I would dream small glimpses of creatures playing with attic debris, sneaking down to steal food and cause mischief. After several nights of playing hide and seek I trapped the racoon and let her go. By then I had already started building protoypes of what I dreamed. I call them Phigments and they were my first major 3D series.

MHM: In your Phigments work, how did the concepts of dualism and rigidity mingled with whimsy and nostalgia come together? From where do you derive the materials for these sculptures and objects?

MD: I love the idea of trying to land my work in the space between attraction and repulsion.  I’m not always successful at this, but I do hope to lead viewers to confront an uncanny valley situation.  I find that being open to accept the notion that everything can be considered a kind of art making material has really opened my eyes to freeing possibilities.  Stumbling upon random encounters with objects that catch my heightened aesthetic eye.. I will use actual objects or make molds and cast replicas that i can then manipulate in artful ways.  Some objects chosen for their memory significance and some simply for their form or color or substance. All the usual places an artist would look for cheap material thrills, thrift stores, estate sales, 40 yard dumpsters.  Some more significant than others. Incorporated were many objects from my parents homes into my Midnight Paracosm exhibit at the Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn. The installation in total had a domestic scene built through the lens of childhood memories.  Installed with gathered charged memory objects from my childhood. It was an exercise in combining nostalgia and surprize.

MHM: What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects we can watch for?

MD: Currently I am engaged in in several cool endeavors. Ive got a couple pieces in a show at Left Hand Black opening June 1 in San Diego, I’m building work for a couple shows coming up in Long Beach.  Starting a large installation commission for a corporate client and another for a client in Nashville is quickly approaching.!

About Matthew:

Matthew Dutton is a multidisciplinary artist whose dark yet satirical works offer interesting commentary and insight about self, experimentation, and current events, . Dutton received a BFA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His work has been exhibited across the United States and internationally at art fairs and galleries such as The Blooom Art Fair in Cologne Germany, The Morbid Anatomy Museum in NY, the Wunderkrammer exhibit at The Bell House in Brooklyn, and published in the New York Times, Hi-Fructose magazine and many other notable exhibits and publications. Dutton is a preparator at the Hunter Museum of American art and keeps a studio in Chattanooga Tn.

“My studio work aims to consolidate opposites.  Balancing the duality of attraction and repulsion, the work tends to lean heavily towards attempting to strike harmony between beautiful and horrible moments.  

I have noticed a few recurring principles that have adhered to my art making practices. Try something new when the opportunity arises; find a place for things once forgotten; explore relationships where surfaces, ideas, and techniques intersect.

A lot of what I do in the studio is driven by experimentation. I am very interested in exploring the limitations of the materials and techniques I use.  Having an understanding of material basics allows me to persuade them into non-traditional outcomes. Within each project I try to incorporate a new material or new technique to test. New things that are successful become part of my visual lexicon to call upon as needed.  Stumbling upon a studio discovery is what tests aim for.

Harnessing the power of charged objects into my work is another desire I covet.  I try to keep my aesthetic antennas tuned to receive hints from whatever the universe sends across my path.  I often take notice of random object that catch my attention, old and discarded things that once had a life but are now forgotten call to me to become reborn into a new form.  An insatiable compulsion to collect and reassign has always permeated my practice and life. Restoring desire to things considered to be waste is a staple in my practice.

Surface intersections are important to my work.  As my material usage varies so greatly, confronting the relationships they create when combining has to be considered.  Extruding hand colored silicone combined with borax grown crystals might nest against felted dryer lint patches and 1970s gaudy trophy parts.  This approach to my additive building process allows me to consider the whole world as a source for art supplies! Alongside material variety, I’m interested in subtle idea projection, current political climate, and satirical irony.  A kind of whimsical horror often comes across through my work which seems unescapable considering the world around us these days. It’s hard not to trend toward a darker shade of subject matter as a reflection of the craziness we are bombarded with daily.  

Juggling work and home life often leaves me with a limited amount of time for my studio sessions.  This forces me to work very spontaneously and viscerally at times. I’ll simmer all day (sometimes dreaming of it at night) on how to address a particular solution for a work, once I am in the studio I get into an automatic state of creating to maximize efficient time wrangling.  Drawing from mountains of collected materials, my ‘fine art’ practice serves to fulfill my personal art making cravings but there’s more. I take on a lot of commercial art projects that call upon a whole different approach to creating. Way more planning, budgeting, communicating, and calculating take place. Studio works are championed to let most all of those things go to the way side.”

-Matthew Dutton

Mineral House