Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Featured Painter: Joanne Mattera - Part II

This is a two part interview and is continued from Part I.

Tell us a bit about your most recent work series Silk Road. Would you share with our readers some of your thoughts and inspirations about this newest series?

Silk Road 117, 12" x 12", encaustic on panel, 2009
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

Silk Road is the most succulent and reductive painting I’ve done. Each painting in this ongoing series is a small color field—you might call it a color "plot"— achieved by layers of translucent paint applied at right angles.

Silk Road 69, 12" x 12", encaustic on panel, 2006
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

It’s not quite the monochrome it initially appears. Each painting has numerous layers of paint and several different hues. Because of the translucent nature of encaustic, the color mixing takes place in your eye as the layers of waxen color, sometimes as disparate as coral and violet, coalesce into one hue.

Silk Road 86, 12" x 12", encaustic on panel, 2007
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

While you’re up close, you’ll see that the subtlest of grids is formed by the trail of brush marks and intentionally grainy elements within the paint. Because of the paint’s luminous nature and a surface grid suggestive of woven cloth, the series just named itself.

I’ve limned each painting to charge the intensity of its color field and, I hope, to spark the eye so that it travels from painting to painting on a small visual journey of its own.

Here comes the frequently asked question - How long does it take to make one painting (please give us an example)?

It takes 50 years and a week to several months to make each painting. That's life plus the actual work time.

Also, one thing that many people, even dealers and collectors, don’t think about is the significant pre- and post-painting effort involved—from acquiring supplies and preparing panels in advance of the actual painting, to many little things after the fact, such as pulling off the tape and cleaning the edges; attaching a hanging device; photographing, Photoshopping and archiving the image; packing the work for delivery, or actually delivering it.

What is the most interesting comment about your work you have heard from a viewer?

An artist once told me the surface of a painting was so luscious she wanted to lick it. I laughed and said, "Please don’t."

Silk Road 87, 12" x 12", encaustic on panel, 2007
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

My palette contains beautiful hues, but I'd never thought of them as candy colored. Typically I like when I can have a conversation, when a viewer is interested in reductivist work, or color, or geometric abstraction. Those topics provide a gate into a discussion about my work.

Please tell us about your art commentary blog Joanne Mattera Art Blog. When did you start blogging? What’s the purpose of your art blog?

I began the Joanne Mattera Art Blog in June 2006, but it was not until I reported on the Miami art fairs in December that year that I felt I found what I wanted to do with the blog, which was to report on and comment about the art I was seeing in New York and at the art fairs.

After that I started posting a couple of times a week. Earlier this year I added a regular column, Marketing Mondays, which deals with the business side of being an artist.

I tag my blog "Guaranteed Biased, Myopic, Incomplete and Journalistically Suspect," but the fact is that I try to maintain respectable standards—I check facts, for instance—even if it is written colloquially and in the first person.

I find that the best art blogs are well written and generous, and those of us who are committed to good reporting and sharing of resources have all found and linked to one another. And it led to …well I see that's your next question.

Would you talk a bit a recent blog conference you organized at the Red Dot Art fair in New York? What's the purpose of organizing this event, how was the responses, who were the panels?

The painter Sharon Butler and I first organized a little get together in December 2007 at the Miami Art Fairs. Matt Garson, producer of the Flow Fair, allowed us to meet in the lobby hotel where the fair was taking place.

Then we reconvened at the Red Dot Art Fair in New York City in March 2008, where producer George Billis let us have space. While the Miami turnout was small, the New York turnout was satisfyingly large, about 50 people—too many, in fact, to fit into the room we were in, so some of the conferees listened in from the lobby next door.

The panel consisted of Edward Winkleman, Carolina Miranda, Paddy Johnson, Carol Diehl, Sharon Butler and myself. We talked mostly about our responsibility to journalistic integrity.

James Kalm recorded both the pre-conference and the public panel discussion and posted his videos on Blip TV.

The Art Bloggers Conference New York 2008 Part I
Video by James Kalm

The Art Bloggers Conference New York 2008 Part II
Video by James Kalm

Many of us who knew one another only through the blogosphere became friends.

Since then Sharon held a "blogger salon" at Pocket Utopia, a gallery in Brooklyn, in January this year, and I moderated a blogger panel at Platform Project Space in New York City, organized by Olympia Lambert as part of the Blogpix exhibition.

Blogger panel at Platform Project Space in New York City
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

And, of course, who could have foretold that the rise of blogging would coincide with the decline of print media? Now many of us are seeing our blogs listed in artists' bibliographies, galleries are sending us announcements, museums have us on their e-mailing lists. Even publishers are reading blogs. One of the pictures I included in my report of Anish Kapoor's 2008 show at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York is going to be included in a monograph of his work published by Phaidon.

Could you tell us how have you handled the business side of being an artist?

Back when I was in art school, career issues were not addressed. I spent the first few years after graduation trying to figure out how to launch myself into the world. Most artists did.

Silk Road 79, 12" x 12", encaustic on panel, 2006
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

Then, when I went to work 9-to-5 in publishing, I saw how even large publications felt it was important to promote their product. Every product had a brand identity and a team of people to promote the product and the brand. Something clicked.

I realized that on a small scale I needed to present myself and my work professionally, that I needed to target specific galleries—not just any gallery whose space I liked—and to create a relationship with the gallery via visits and conversation. Of course I kept painting.

And when I sent out materials, they were in a package whose pages had a letterhead and simple but related packaging. I'm an artist, but since I support myself from the sale of my work, I'm also a sole proprietor. It took me years to overcome the idea that selling myself and my work equaled selling out.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Making art, showing, curating, writing. Everything I'm doing now, just farther along on the continuum.

Mattera studio with Cielo and Madrugada, 2004
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Take your work seriously. Network. Show, show, show at non-profits, academic galleries and in well-chosen juried exhibitions so that you build up your resume. Then approach a commercial gallery. Especially in this economy, a dealer wants to work with artists who have experience and ideally, a collector base.

Don't let yourself be paralyzed by rejection. It’s not a condemnation of you or your work, simply that your work is not the right fit for a particular situation. If you find your work rejected regularly, reassess where you've been applying.

Do your homework to find the gallery that's a fit for the kind of work you do, and understand the gallery hierarchy so that you don’t go after venues that show artists whose careers are far more advanced than yours.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Visit the galleries you’re interested in. How many times have artists sent packages to galleries they’ve never been to? When you do finally get into a gallery, understand that the dealer is your partner in your career; don’t go selling out of your studio or behind the dealer's back.

Read the Marketing Mondays posts on my blog.

Would you provide links to articles and reviews about your work?

Mattera installation. Wall from solo at OK Harris, NYC. 2007
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

Probably the best thing to do is visit my resume online, which has all kinds of links to websites and reviews. But here are a few of the most recent:

Silk Road 54, 12" x 12", encaustic on panel, 2006
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

Are you planning any exhibitions of your work in the near future?

Right now, Adler Gallery in San Francisco has a large installation of my Silk Road paintings.

I am also part of a group show, Summer Guest House, at the Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta through August 1. In August my gouache paintings will be included in a work-on-paper show at June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland, Maine.

Mattera installation in Atlanta for Mark Williams Design via Marcia Wood Gallery
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

Mattera installation. Solo at Arden Gallery. 2008
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

Arden Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston always has a few paintings of mine up in the back room. Online I'm part of an international curatorial project called Geoform, curated by the Michigan-based painter Julie Karabenick, which focuses on abstract geometric art.

Silk Road 115, 12" x 12", encaustic on panel, 2009
Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera

Do you offer any art classes, art consultations? Are you available for commissioned works? Representing gallery if any?

Thank you for asking that. Aside from the course I teach to matriculating students at MassArt, I occasionally offer a workshop in getting to the next step in your career through the Department of Continuing Studies at Maine College of Art. I think we'll be running it in October. You can navigate through or check my blog; it will be listed when the date is set.

In terms of commissions, I have to be really intrigued by the project, so I tend to turn down more than I accept. For commissions and sales I work through my galleries. In Boston, it's Arden Gallery. The others are listed on my resume.

Do you have website(s) for interested readers to learn more about your work? Would you like to share your contact info with our readers?

From my blog you can link to my resume and my exhibition schedule. You may also wish to visit my website,

Would you like to add anything?

I think we've just about covered it, Sand. Thank you for inviting me to share something of myself and my career with your readers.