Matthew Freel – Baltimore, Maryland

Apollo (Son of Krypton), Oil on canvas, 18” x 24” ,2012

Apollo (Son of Krypton), Oil on canvas, 18” x 24” , 2012

Briefly describe the work you do.

I make paintings and drawings that are influenced by history, mythology, and contemporary culture. Part of this is a way of delving into my own identity & background as well as that of our country. Part of it is a celebration and warning of the triumphs and terrors of powerful figures. And part of it is being able to paint and draw and explore what I love – people, mark-making & storytelling.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I grew up drawing superheroes but also learning about everything else I could – science, math, stories in literature, and I have siblings and a group of friends that played lots of sports. So even though I knew art was a passion and a life’s pursuit, I wanted to be influenced and learn about these other things. As an artist today the quest for knowledge and inspiration is still present in my life and reflected in my work – I love finding new stories and symbols for the human experience, both good and bad. I think all of this ancillary knowledge creates great layers of depth in a successful piece. And even something like my (very minor!) triumphs in sports has taught me some intangible lessons in art-making – toughness, persistence, and a willingness to succeed.

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.”

Well this is one area where I may be very old-school but most of my work comes simply from being present and working in the studio, regardless of whether or not I feel “inspired”. But it has to do with not just toiling blindly but constantly assessing what’s working and what’s not; when I need to put my head down and power through a tough part of the process and when I need to switch directions because I’m just not being productive anymore. There are other parts of “being in the studio” that happen outside the room and are vital – research whatever/wherever is necessary, museum visits and looking at art, discussions with other artists, administrative toils – all of these serve an important purpose in the larger practice.

African Safari, Oil on canvas, 52” x 78”, 2011

African Safari, Oil on canvas, 52” x 78”, 2011

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?

Artist as businessperson! Getting people to engage with and support my work is something I thought was important and I knew I would have to work at, but the practical application of the career of art-making is exhausting and difficult, but still very worthwhile. I try to approach this as finding the ways and means to introduce people to my work and engage them in learning more about what I do.

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?

All of the above – I like to work every day in the morning, but sometimes this is not possible. As a result, any time I can get in my studio is great time to work. I think short bursts of time in the studio can be incredibly productive, but I dream of being able to do it every day for the majority of the day. Until I reach that point, I plan ahead to have extended periods of studio time as the work dictates.

Untitled (Prometheus/Firestorm), Oil & acrylic on canvas, 56” x 80”, 2014

Untitled (Prometheus/Firestorm), Oil & acrylic on canvas, 56” x 80”, 2014

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

It’s still painting and drawing but I have found ways, both in making and in concept, to be more responsive to my process and allow work to grow and build momentum as part of its creation. I still work with ideas of myth, history and heroes, but I find myself blurring these lines today.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

Family always, but recently I have returned to superheroes of my childhood, not in an ironic or kitschy way but in a sincere way that looks at the stories and characters behind them. As an artist I will always look to Michelangelo and Francis Bacon, but lately I’ve also been examining deKooning, Joan Mitchell, Anselm Keifer, and Marlene Dumas.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

Unfortunately I already do – I am a sommelier by day, working with a restaurant group in Baltimore called Foreman Wolf, and I love doing that work because of the sensory and artistic experience that comes with wine. It has many parallels to art but is completely temporal – you drink wine, and then it’s gone. Still if it’s great wine you remember it, and it reflects a time and place and culture, just like art. Now ideally I will be able to flip these in the future – make art as a career and enjoy wine outside of work!

About

headshotI spent my childhood in Columbus, Ohio drawing superheroes before studying art intensely in high school. Knowing I wanted to explore other areas of art and science, I went to college at Washington University in St. Louis. My experience included a semester in Florence, Italy as well as classes in a range of other liberal arts. Led by the lure of the big city and graduate school at the School of Visual Arts, I went to New York City after St. Louis. In 2008 I moved to Baltimore where I currently live, working in my studio with the heroic figure, mythology, history & personal experience.

studio

www.matthewfreel.com

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

 

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About Frank Juarez

Frank Juarez is a gallery director, art educator, artist, published author, presenter, and arts advocate living and working in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Organizing local and regional art exhibitions, community art events, facilitating presentations, and supporting artists through professional development workshops, use of social media and networking has placed him in the forefront of advancing and promoting local artists and attracting regional and national artists to interact, collaborate, network and exhibit in the Wisconsin.
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