Matt Babcock – Seattle, Washington

title:  Great Blue media:  powder coated steel, stainless steel, and clock dimensions:  13'H x 8'W x 3'D year:  2015

title: Great Blue
media: powder coated steel, stainless steel, and clock
dimensions: 13’H x 8’W x 3’D
year: 2015

Briefly describe the work you do.

I build metal sculptures. I think of my work as an aerial form of calligraphy that captures a subject’s gesture or action. It is representational, in that my subjects are easily recognizable. At the same time, my sculptures distill form and movement in a way that rewards inspection. Often the images portrayed in my work resolve as viewers move around and see it from different angles. Creating a sense of discovery or revelation is a way to draw people in and make a connection with them.

I focus on public art as a way of making things that benefit whole communities. Public art is important because public spaces reflect the ways communities and individuals think of themselves in relation to others and to the larger world.

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

When I was five my dad set me up with a workbench and tools. I spent many hours making things that I thought of as functional, even though the function was often mysterious or imaginary. I continue to work in this vein, producing artwork that typically has an active or functional aspect.

I approach art from the approximate direction of craft. The objects I find most moving reveal their makers’ appreciation for materials and the ways things are made. I went to welding school rather than art school to learn to make beautiful things. The critics whose opinions I value most are fellow welders.

At the same time there is a strong element of form for form’s sake in my work. My background in mathematics and art history led to an interest in exploring the ways unadorned shapes can resonate with a viewer on an emotional or visceral level.

title:  Big Wet Dog medium:  powder coated steel dimensions:  52"H x 92"W x 28"D year:  2014

title: Big Wet Dog
medium: powder coated steel
dimensions: 52″H x 92″W x 28″D
year: 2014

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.”

There’s an analytical aspect to my practice. At least half of my sketchbook is filled with research notes, engineering calculations, materials lists, etc. I spend a lot of time in cafes and libraries working on my laptop, where a lot of my design work takes place.

I try to spend at least half of my time in the welding shop. My best designs are those most firmly grounded in the physical intuition or “feel” for tools and materials that comes from hands-on work. Shop time is also rewarding because it gratifies my inner child’s appreciation for fire and big noisy tools. I’m just getting to the point where I’m hiring other people to do some of the fabrication on my larger projects. Working with other fabricators makes me feel the need for hands-on shop time even more acutely.

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

I’ve been making art as long as I can remember. For most of my life I didn’t think of myself as a businessperson, and didn’t think I’d want to become one. While I begrudge the time I spend applying for commissions, marketing, bookkeeping, and otherwise running a business, I generally enjoy learning new skills. The bloom may fade when I’ve been at this a few more years, but for now I’m engaged by the process.

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’m fortunate that I can be an artist full time. I limit myself to a standard 40-hour week as much as possible, so that I can stay connected with family and friends.

title:  Equestrian medium:  steel dimensions:  57"H x 63"W x 18"D year:  2013

title: Equestrian
medium: steel
dimensions: 57″H x 63″W x 18″D
year: 2013

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

The biggest change has been the switch to doing much of my design development on the computer. 3D cad software has come a long way. It allows me to design things I couldn’t have conceived of before. It’s a great tool for visualizing (and showing other people) what a piece is actually going to look like. It also allows me to go into the workshop with a set of accurate shop drawings, so fabrication has become more efficient and enjoyable.

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

I’m interested in traditional Chinese and Japanese ink painting. It’s amazing how much a skilled painter can reveal about a subject’s movement and feeling or essence using a minimum of brushwork. Looking at ink paintings has helped me clarify some of my goals for my own work in terms of economy and revelation.

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests? 

I studied a lot of math and physics in college, and still take up a class or textbook occasionally. I became an architect and practiced for 13 years because I liked the idea of combining that rational, mathematical approach with a more intangible, intuitive design sensibility. As an artist I can explore that right brain/left brain synergy more freely.

About

Babcock_head_shotI’m a sculptor who builds with metal. My goal is to create complex, changing impressions using simple forms and materials.

When I was five my dad set me up with a workbench and tools. I spent countless hours making things that I thought of as functional, even though the function was often mysterious or imaginary.

I have experience and training in architecture, engineering, metal fabrication, mathematics, and art history. My art reflects my lifelong interest in nature and how things work.

title:  Crane in its Vigilance medium:  computer-generated proposal rendering; finished work will be bronze dimensions:  17'H x 11'W x 5'D year:  work in progress, installation expected October 2015

title: Crane in its Vigilance
medium: computer-generated proposal rendering; finished work will be bronze
dimensions: 17’H x 11’W x 5’D
year: work in progress, installation expected October 2015

mattbabcock.com

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

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About 365Artists/365Days

The purpose of this project is to introduce its readership to a diverse collection of art that is being produced at the national and international level. Our goal is to engage the public with information regarding a wide array of creative processes, and present the successes and failures that artists face from day to day. The collaborators hope that this project will become a source for exploring and experiencing contemporary art in all its forms.
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