Briefly describe the work you do.
My work analyzes structures of identity through a confessional methodology. By drawing upon experiences traditionally thought of as personal/private and exposing them publicly, I consider issues of exploitation and exhibitionism. I have analyzed various cultural constructions through the use of narratives; my most recent work analyzes love and romance through a dissection of the couple.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I am a printmaker and book artist who is greatly influenced by narratives. I find solace in the expression of the told story, seeking meaning and connection through the experiences I share with others. My background as a sex columnist has greatly influenced my work. By writing a column, I have learned to utilize a confessional voice, which has carried over to my art practice. My most recent work, The Couple, is an example of this use of the confessional narrative. The Couple is an altered book of a text by the same name published by Masters and Johnson in 1971—it is the story of a husband and wife who underwent extensive sexual therapy to save their failing marriage. Through the alteration process, I connect my own struggles with love and coupledom to their original story. Overall, the work analyzes the monogamous-model, posing the question: is this form of relationship truly the most fulfilling?
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My practice utilizes both a traditional studio in addition to creating work outside in other settings through the form of interventions. As a printmaker, I require access to various tools and presses to create fine artwork. Through interventions, or the placing of a work in an untraditional art setting, I question the necessity for a “studio” or “gallery”—perhaps offering a commentary on contemporary artwork. An example of a recent intervention is the series, A Loving Memory Revisited—on Valentine’s Day 2015, I travelled across the state of Florida to post a series of love notes and poetry written on 554 pink post-it notes in locations that I had vivid memories of falling in love with my former partner. The number of notes directly corresponded to the number of days that he and I were together, and the project was a means of exerting my agency within these spaces. I preserved this intervention through photography; however, the creation process of releasing these post-it notes was the actual artwork.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
The creation of The Couple, pushed me to consider forms of publishing that I never thought would happen in my emerging artist career. The joy of digitally reproducing the work and self-publishing has allowed the original artwork to reach a larger audience. As a printmaker, I understand the role of prints as a creation of multiples to reach a greater number of viewers; however, acting as both publisher and promoter of this book has been a fascinating growing experience. Like artist books themselves, I am learning to navigate the liminal space between book and art world.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I currently spend around twenty hours a week creating in some way. I do have set studio time on weekends, and I utilize these days efficiently to create as much work as possible. I’m a morning person, and so I tend to work early in the day, often beginning my studio sessions with work in my journal or sketchbook. Self-reflection and goal-setting are two routines that prove necessary to my practice.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
The consistent thread that connects my studio works is a love for narratives. In college I majored in both Studio Art and English, and the latter has left me with a complete love for literature and story telling. This passion works its way into my art practice in obvious ways—through both the use of text as image and the medium of artist books. While my work continues to hinge on this dedication to narratives, the concepts I analyze in my practice have varied greatly within the past few years. Earlier works analyzed addictions and compulsory behavior, while my most recent body of work questions love and coupledom (arguably another form of addictive behavior). In spite of this difference in themes, I continue to define my identity through the creation of artwork.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I am greatly influenced by established contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin, Sophie Calle, and Jenny Holzer. Emin in particular provides a context for my artwork—her confessional works stand as the genesis for current neo-confessional artists and writers. Throughout college, I studied queer theory as a lens for understanding my artwork—Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner were two writers who I was particularly interested in. In Orlando, I am surrounded by other artists who continue to inspire me—Betsy Johnson, Rachel Simmons, and Kyle McCoy are all artists I turn to for constant critique and support.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
In addition to my studio art practice, I am a working graphic designer. Fulfilling the visions of my clients is a practical application of the skills I learned through my art education. I continue to identify myself as both an artist and writer—publishing and writing are certainly passions of mine.
David Matteson is an artist and writer based in Orlando, FL. He graduated with his BA in Studio Art and English from Rollins College in 2015. In 2015, he released his first book, an altered book named The Couple which is a compilation of both mixed media drawings and confessional writing. His artwork has been featured in the Cornell Fine Arts Museum in Winter Park, FL.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.