Photographs by Tony Dixon
Matt Weir received his BFA from the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville in 2004. Weir’s classical training, however, evolved through concurrent apprenticeships with a distinguished line of artists and studios, including Paul Fields and the Bright Foundry with whom Weir was a technician and sculptor for nearly fifteen years. His current projects include the life sized bronze statue of Hunter S. Thompson.
CA Seller: When we met you spoke of computer generated sculpture, I compared it to microwaved eggs. Is sculpture-in particular stone sculpture- a dying art?
MW: Stone carving… yes, but mostly in the sense of actual people carving and shaping stone. Otherwise, there are still plenty of stone sculpture and stone carving happening it’s just all being done by algorithms and CNC machines determined by artists or otherwise but fulfilled by whoever can work the machine and finish or ‘clean up’ the cut stone. It is all pretty sad from my point of view, but there are still sculptors like myself that will visit a quarry and select a stone based on traditional knowledge and then carve that stone to completion all by themselves. This practice is indeed dying but maybe one day it too will be cool and a DIY phenomenon. I doubt this. Sculpture in general is entirely mutating and the fundamental practice and knowledge of materials is shamefully being lost. Most college and universities seem, in my perspective, to focus on the concept of conceptual art but fail to also usher any means to expect their students to craft their ideas with any concept of materials. This is a total failure of higher education facilities and their educators.
CAS: Matt, you write of your relationship with all humanity through your work. This reminds me of Rothko who wished to create the same emotional response in his viewers as he felt when he created his paintings which, while looking like nothing but fuzzy rectangles, are worth millions. Do you think along these lines and how are you emotionally affected during your work?
MW: No. Rectangles aren’t going to do much of anything for anyone. I appreciate Rothko’s work, of course, but my philosophy of art is probably very different. How am I affected personally during my work? I enjoy the process of art and creation, it’s not easy, it does personally often involve intense work, all of which often invokes loud cursing. The passion is certainly intense and it can be blatantly viscous as well, I won’t deny that. In terms of what I am creating and what I hope will be the exchange with the viewer… yes Rothko and I, like most artists do sympathize. I think mine may be more pragmatic though, I’m ultimately trying to engage with my audience in order to converse about actual and often literal basic life, behavior and nature, sometimes abstractly too. This is all fundamentally because I am naively optimistic that if we understand our context that we will empower our future. My work isn’t always easy because I expect you to want to grow and learn as a human being, to challenge yourself and think new thoughts.
CAS: You write of Edward O. Wilson whose theories on the relationship between the artist and world are changing radically. Could you expound on this?
MW: Scientist and author Edward O. Wilson referred to ‘The New Synthesis’ back in the mid 70s with a
book he wrote titled “Sociobiology: the New Synthesis.” This text is a massive and evolutionarily cohesive work on the fundamental biological idea of our species and all biological nature as ultimately all sharing the same M.O. The ‘new synthesis’ aspect of this was the projected vision of the maturation of this idea as commonplace in our daily lives and culture. Thus, in the future this would be a no brainer and every human engineered system, culture, economics, medicine, science, education, etc. would all be operating within this knowledge base. This projected time period, from that point of view, would also of course recognize the scientific theory of evolution through natural selection as being a given and largely not challenged outside of the basic science of theory testing with more science. Are we there yet… living in the context of what E.O. Wilson referred to as “the new synthesis?” Mostly. All largely except for the destructive and primitive powers of old religion still threatening your well being now and forever in eternity and tomorrow. If our elected officials would catch up to our culture and stop worrying about god blessing this that and the country I think we would be quite happily and fully living the new synthesis. Nevertheless, this is the context for my personal work, this context of understanding is what I expect of my audience and what I hope they leave with… at least with one new morsel of insight of thought that is just ever so slightly out of their comfort zone.
CAS: Some of your sculptures look like totems and fetishes, was this your intention?
MW: Not necessarily, most of these works were from an older period from when I was exploring themes of animism, anthropomorphism and personification. I was thinking about human evolution as a whole and in particular the fundamental evolution and construction of our own species identity as well as that of our gods.
CAS: Other pieces are just beautiful and I am a picky-ass art critic. I describe the best of art in terms familiar to Don Juan of Carlos Casteneda fame and I paraphrase [The artist and poet travel to the Junkyard of Infinity bringing back great inspiration.] I think you go there easily after years of practice. Would you agree?
MW: I’ve made a lot of very nice objects that are unique to the world. I enjoy basic and simply beautiful things that are made by hand, but this is not what I value as my art. Yes, I would agree and I do pride myself on a measured degree of craftsmanship and ambition. I work hard and constantly only desire to make work worth making. It’s never easy though, most of what you see of my work, especially works from my own vocabulary are the products of years of consideration and development. Imagine a lottery drawing cage full of ideas that turns at a pace akin to geologic time, it doesn’t literally work like that actually. Thank you though…
CAS: Tell me about the Hunter S. Thompson statue. I have seen the pint sized version, there is a special name for that isn’t there?
MW: Yes, that’s called a “maquette,” it’s a French term for model. The concept is originally based on his Pitkin County sheriff’s race concession speech. It has evolved since then, but essentially the fundamental idea was and is to create a statue to honor Hunter S. Thompson the author and journalist, the man himself, and not a caricature of the person. The devil’s in the details.
CAS: Some months ago I suggested the HST statue in dashboard Jesus size. You never responded. Were you insulted? I was afraid you might put me on the pay-me-no-mind list as a result.
MW: Not at all!, are you sure I didn’t respond? I feel like this came up at a meeting and I suggested that this just wouldn’t be something that I would want to do. Plastic toy stuff just isn’t my cup of tea… it goes essentially back to my lack of interest in producing intrinsic waste. You are not on my “pay me no mind list,” and if you were you would be the first contestant. I just have a thing about plastic. Sorry Charlie.
CAS: How about HST Pez dispensers?
MW: and no.
CAS: How long before we can expect the HST statue and where will it be installed?
MW: This all depends on the funding of the statue. Once we can successfully fund it I will try my damnedest to have it completed within a year, however, this is a very important work for me and for the context of Hunter’s legacy, I am not going to rush the piece to fit a timeline. It must be the very, very best and that is my job.
CAS: Is GonzoFest is donating to your fund? How much will it take to finish the piece?
MW: There is an open “go fund me” fundraising campaign for the statue, but otherwise there is no other funding source including Gonzofest. The fest is hosting the funding initiative but is not directly funding the statue, at least to my knowledge. We are trying to raise $120,000 for the statue and granite base.
CAS: You are really one of the most prolific artists I have ever met with works ranging from sculpture to architecture. Are you making living at it?
MW: Fortunately, I am. That statement does come with an asterisk though. It’s not easy and not ideal for the vast majority of people. An artist’s life is difficult to make work in terms of a career. How I describe my job and the job of an artist is that you are the CEO and everyone else all the way to the janitor. It’s all about balance, isn’t that what they say?
CAS: If you could slap the living shit out of just one artist (living or dead) who would that be and why?
MW: I could never slap the living shit out of an artist… Mitch McConnell.
CAS: I figured as much and applaud your insight. What else would you like to say about the HST statue?
MW: He’s in good hands.
CAS: What about Building 7 at the World Trade Center? I have seen videos you posted suggesting it was an inside job.
MW: I believe that the Building 7 destruction was a product of our government’s failure of being a nation for and of the people. The building and most importantly its contents were (in my relatively informed opinion) destroyed by an act of controlled demolition, an implosion. All of which, if so, would sure seem to make 911 a convenience to someone. At this point I’m comfortable with the insanity that this thought suggests, I unfortunately don’t think it is.
CAS: Thank you Matt Weir for this peek inside your world. I implore everyone to visit Matt’s website and see just what I have been talking about.
Matt Weir received his BFA from the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville in 2004. Weir’s classical training, however, evolved through concurrent apprenticeships with a distinguished line of artists and studios, including Paul Fields and the Bright Foundry with whom Weir was a technician and sculptor for nearly fifteen years. He states he not only prides himself on the diversity of his training, but furthermore, sees within this experience the reciprocal responsibility he has to his work, his audience and the education of younger artists because of it. Weir has exhibited his work extensively throughout the midwest including The Evansville Museum of Art, History, and Science, The Kinsey Institute, the Louisville Visual Art Association, Actor’s theater, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, The Kentucky Folk Art Museum, and many more. His work exists in the collections of the City Of Louisville, the City of Vandalia, 21c Museums, Hidden Hill Sculpture Garden, Jewish Hospital, St. Xavier High School and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest as well as numerous private collections.
Artist – Contemporary Works on Nature and Behavior