Sculptor Matthew Steele has been working in Charlotte since his winter 2012 artist residency at McColl Center for Art + Innovation. Now fresh out of his Skyline artist residency at the Goodyear building (you may have seen his giant steel sculpture Lure), this funny and talented artist is currently revisiting sculpture in a smaller scale. His wood and metal pieces are engineer-like in their angles and simplicity and also quite elegant and serene. The precise forms of the sculptures appear almost machine made, but are softened with grainy wood or made weighty with steel. The three dimensional forms are often replicated digitally in archival prints, in which fog and mist give them a whole different environment. We love that despite having a 9-5 job (Manager of Creative Services for McColl Center), he makes his art practice a priority and enjoys exploring through experimentation. Take a moment to get to know Matthew and his work in the interview below.
HappeningsCLT: Describe yourself in three words.
Matthew Steele: Sculptor. Designer. Wiry.
HCLT: When did you realize you were an artist?
MS: I’m not sure if realizing you are an artists is a thing. I knew I wanted to be an artist at a very young age. Around nine years old. I was moved by art very early on and pursued it.
HCLT: Who or what inspires you artistically?
MS: I’ve always been inspired by industrial structures on a large scale. I’m intrigued by spaces that feel vacant but have a clear purpose. Like contemporary ruins. I’ve always been drawn to artists that deal with ‘feat’ more than ‘gallery art.’ James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson, Tim Hawkinson.
HCLT: Tell us about your current body of work.
MS: Right now I’m coming off of a stent exploring new materials, processes and scale. I’m getting back to my roots, making some medium scale wood pieces. I think I’ve always made work that referenced a larger scale. After working on large scale pieces for a while, it’s interesting to come back to a smaller scale but pull from what I’ve gleaned during that time. I’ve got fresh eyes now, and it feels good to be back in the wood shop. I’ve also been collaborating and I’m eager to do more of that.
The work I’m exploring right now deals with division and replication. My work discusses how as people we often make things that reflect who we are. How the technologies we produce tend to resemble human technologies of the self, like feeling or emotions. Now I’m zooming way down and looking at that in a more scientific way. Does an assembly line resemble mitosis? Stuff like that.
HCLT: What do you think is the most valuable art experience in the Carolinas right now?
MS: Michael O’Neill has a great show up at Gallery Twenty-Two. I think being a fine art photographer today is hard with all of the noise that giving everyone a camera has created. But when you see someone do it with a process seen so rarely, infrared exposure, it’s really impressive. Ivan Depeña is perpetually blowing my mind. A trip to his studio at McColl Center is pretty tough to beat. He will be featured at Studio Party 16 at McColl Center for Art + Innovation in April along many other amazing Alumni Artists.
HCLT: What is your number one art piece/place/event in this area?
MS: I think the Skyline Artist-in-Residence program was a great project for our community. It gave local artists an opportunity to not only have space to work in, but a really unique and challenging context to make and show their work. I think Charlotte has grown accustom to having art shipped in and put on display in big beautiful buildings. Skyline let Charlotte-based emerging artists take the lime-light for a bit, and did so with really low overhead. I really hope to see that project continued in some way.
HCLT: What book is on your nightstand right now?
MS: I’ve been reading about Gordon Matta-Clark’s life. I think it’s often easy to think of yourself as brave just for being an artist and taking risks. There might be some truth in there somewhere, but I’ve definitely never fled the country because my art broke so many laws that fleeing was the best option.
HCLT: Best meal in the Charlotte area?
MS: Tough question. I recently ate at Kindred in Davidson. That’ll bake your noodle. But dollars to doughnuts, I’ll put Midwood Smokehouse right up there.
HCLT: Where can we see your work?
MS: I’ve still got some odds and ends laying around at the Skyline Residency. You can take a peek through the window to see Lure, or check the west-facing wall to see Residence of C. Valaer, a 32 foot engraving that Todd Stewart and I put together. I’ll have some new work up at Studio Party 16 that you can see on April 16th.