Briefly describe the work you do.
I’m a consciousness-based sculptor, meaning that in addition to formal concerns, my work deals with the evolution of consciousness. I started this work as a way to understand what was happening as I got deeper into my meditation practice. My goal is to imbue the works with an energetic quality that leads the viewer inward and enables an immersive experience of quietude. “Slow art” is almost as tired and hollow a phrase as “green (fill in the blank)” but I think that intense engagement is critical to understanding ourselves and our world.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born on the Pacific and spent my formative years on the Atlantic. Despite the fact that I’ve been living on the prairie for the past thirty years, the ocean is embedded in my work. I am the youngest of three children and because my siblings were so much older than I, it was like being an only child. I spent a lot of time alone in the woods of Maine and got interested in wildflowers, birds, the natural world in general. The older I get, the more I find that I need that kind of silence and space to think most of the time. I can’t stand the hyperactivity and constant need to be plugged in to electronics that pervades our culture.
I learned how to meditate sixteen years ago, and it brought me back to making art after a very long hiatus and has formed the basis of everything I’ve done since.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I have a conventional studio practice. My studio is in my house, so I can work in the middle of the night if I want to. I read; I look at stuff; I make work. I consider the whole world my studio though—I’m always looking and thinking in terms of my work. There’s no separation between life and work.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
This is a cliche but I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was in kindergarten or first grade and other kids used to stand around and watch me draw, so I drew not only because it was fun but because I got praise and attention. I had no idea at that time that I would ever take something fun so very seriously, as though it may actually have some chance of changing the world by encouraging others to look within themselves and live more mindfully.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I have to have a day job to support myself (though I’m currently between assignments). When I’m free, my favorite time to work is definitely beginning in the morning and going all day long, like a 9-to-5. I wish I could do that every day but when I have a job, I’m in the studio after dinner until bedtime. I had to develop a way of working to accommodate the lack of big chunks of free time.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I adopted a modular, square, monochromatic format about five years ago and started making more reliefs and fewer freestanding works that have gradually become more geometric and less organic. The choice to work with accretion was largely a practical decision based on the amount of time with which I had to work but it’s turned out to be a far richer experience than I could have imagined. I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with my current preoccupation with repetition; it’s not showing any signs of subsiding though. I’m going to be studying metal casting this fall and it will be interesting to see what comes out of that.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My dear friend, the painter John Rummelhoff has been a mentor for a long time. We’re diametrically opposed in terms of our politics, but we have a mutual reverence for technical and conceptual quality and we exchange books and ideas all the time. He makes my frames and boxes. He’s taught me a lot about technique and materials and encouraged me to loosen up and be more experimental (a futile but noble effort!). He also has drafting skills that would move you to tears.
It’s weird; most of my friends are painters. My friend Tina Blondell is a sensitive, very skilled figurative painter in the tradition of great European masters like Caravaggio, but she finds the heroic, extraordinary, and beautiful in everyday people. I met her through my ex-husband when we were dating, and she gave me my first solo show. She’s been the biggest champion of my work and really gets it even though we do very different things.
More directly influential in terms of my work would be artists like Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, and others: Martin Puryear, Eleanore Mikus, the Zero Group. I’ve also been very interested in Tantric and Neo-Tantric art for the past few years and want to go to India to study. I see my work as devotional art or tools, so the Tantric paintings of Rajasthan (such as those shown several years ago at Feature Gallery in the Tantra Song show) are of particular interest to me.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I support myself as a graphic artist, proofreader, and occasional technical writer, but if I hadn’t been involved in art, I might have gone into science if I were math savvy enough. I’m fascinated by quantum physics and how current developments are demonstrating scientifically what rishis have been saying for hundreds of years.
Minneapolis-based Kim Matthews works in a variety of sculptural media ranging from paper to wood, exploiting each medium’s unique properties while utilizing a format of numerous repeated forms often in a square or cubic presentation. The use of accretion to create her works evolved from both practical concerns—the need to be productive with little available studio time—and spiritual ones, as repetition is evocative of the mantra meditation that shapes her daily life.
The recipient of a 2010-2011 Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant, Ms. Matthews exhibits locally and nationally and has had the honor of exhibiting alongside such notable sculptors as Ferne Jacobs and George Morrison. Her work is currently featured in Focus: Fiber at the Erie Museum of Art, Erie, PA and will be on exhibit in New Fibers at Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, opening on 10/27, as well as in a solo exhibit: Abhyasa: Recent Works by Kim Matthews, at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse opening on Friday, October 17.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.