I first came across Matt Stallings' when he was nominated in the emerging artist category for the San Diego Art Prize. His vibrant colors and technique made him stand out, but what struck me most about his work was his humor and social commentary. Not only did I want to buy one of his paintings, I wanted to sit down for a beer with the guy. We asked four friends who have shared an adult beverage with Matt in the past to inquire about whatever questions have gone unanswered in their minds.
Justin Skeesuck (Seen+Noted) - Growing up in Ojai, how do you find it shaped you as an artist today?
It think being around such a strange crowd of semi-hippie, new age, yuppies opened my eyes to free thinking from a young age. Ojai which is Cherokee for the nest is one of a few spiritually charged valleys, not to sure what makes it this mecca of strange. There was always little art fairs and performances going on in town growing up that I would frequent. I think the thing that really sparked my creativity was leaving my small town and going to bigger cities like LA. It was culture shock. I would see crazy bums that my town didn't have. There was little diversity in my home town.
Justin: Describe your process in creating your art.
My process is similar To A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder). I come up with my ideas from everywhere. Listening to T.V. without watching it, Us Magazine, the news, My dreams. If you have ever just listened to the Oprah Show without watching it you will hear a lot of strange uncomfortable catch phrases, fake laughs and so much more. I recommend listening to any movie with Arnold Swartzanager in it. I think I just like to absorb our culture without taking it to seriously, it helps me screw and twist my ideas into my own. I like to pull from my childhood and compare it to how it may have shaped my present day, then I paint those memories. So to sum up this madness. I write a lot of things down and then directly create artwork from those titles. I paint on wood, canvas, paper, and whatever is availible to put my ideas down on.
Land of Dreams
Sean Kelley (Set & Drift) - How will you explain this to your children?
I will encourage them to make up stories behind their dad's paintings. That is one thing I did as a kid. I was told by my first art teacher that art is up to your interpretation. I think I miss understood what she was telling me because I would sit and make up crazy stories about artwork I saw. I will tell my kids that artwork has no limitations and that they can do and say whatever they want to with a paintbrush. Just no profanity until they are 18-ish.
Sean: What is your power animal? explain.
Well if I were a power animal, I guess I would be a Ligar with Sammy Hagar leather pants and a flying V electric guitar. No, but really I don't know how to answer this question. My power animal would be sponsored by Starbucks coffee.
Thanks for the Holiday
Justin: If you were gay, who would you have sex with?
Myself dressed as a polar bear.
Justin: What's the worst fight you and your brother Jeromy got into?
I was about 5 and he was 7. Not sure what were fighting over but the result of the fight was the both of us in emergency room. I had bit a chunk of skin from his arm and he threw me across the room and I cracked my head on the fireplace. Man my parents were lucky to raise such angels.
The Bomb Popped
Dylan Jones (Subtext Gallery) - I'm curious to know why you chose "Bomb Pops" as the focus for your show at Subtext? Why not Fudgecicle's or Twinkie's or any other form of kid-centric junk food?
I think it is because the name is very morbid and apocalyptic for a sugary treat. I find a lot of things that were created in the 1940's and 50's were so over sensationalized from war. The premise of using a single sugary popsicle with a threatening name as my show keeps the mood light but allows me to twist my ideas of the past, present and future any way that I want to. I find a lot of hidden meaning in simple obvious things like product titles and whatnot.
Matt with Zoey and Hayden
Dylan: I would assume that your wife's pregnancy has inspired your work in some way. Is there any piece for this show you feel that the twins motivated you to do?
I can't pin point one exactly but I think my entire show is effected by the combo of the pregnancy and the twins being born. I have found a new Disney infatuation, my subjects a bit more storybook but dark in their final outcome. I think my colors got a bit brighter and more of my childhood love of cartoons has made its way into the show. I've been reflecting on the things I did as a kid. Like eat loads of McDonald's because that's what kids want to do. I played with toys when I was a kid and blew toys up as I got older.
Don Hollis (Hollis Brand) - Your work skillfully connects and subverts themes of pop culture iconography and Americana. As a new father, do you anticipate a shift in your feelings about children being seduced by corporate empires like McDonald's and Disney?
I do. But I think my shift is more in the consumption and waste that this fun yummy fast culture we live in produces everyday. I won't stop my kids from being part of everything America is as a culture, I will just scare them by telling them tall tales about their decisions. Like every time they want french fries from McDonald's a clown somewhere in the world dies. Not really. Or maybe I will.
The New Flavor
Don: Although totally separate in style and subject matter, your work evokes some of the folksy quirkiness of Martha Rich and Esther Pearl Watson. What artists today are producing compelling work?
I love both of those girls. They are my friends and I would say we are of similar minds and comedy. Being an artist, it is hard to not be influenced by other artists and friends. A few of my are hero's are, Henry Darger, Andy Warhol and Basquiat. A few of my favorite living artists are, The Clayton Brothers, Jeff Sotto, Marco Wagner, Tim Biskup, James Jean, Shepard Fairy, Banksy, Mark Todd, too many to list.
Don: If you were a molecular biologist, how would you explain Matt Stallings' DNA?
Coffee + Television + Fruit Loops + Cartoons + Bear Suites + Nostalgia + Comedy + 1+1=3 + Madonna Gap tooth + Beer + Kids + Tabloids + Love + Wife + Family + Red Beard = White. Medium height. Slightly hairy human.
'After the Bomp Popped' opens at Subtext Gallery Friday, December 11th. Matt will also be showing a piece at Thread Show this Saturday and Sunday and has contributed screen artwork that Sezio will be printing live at the event.